The Tablecloth

Some years ago, a young minister was about to take up his first pastorate. It was in a very run-down part of a large city, and as soon as he and his wife arrived they realised that before they could begin to worship in the building, it would need extensive renovation. It was October now, and they set themselves a target, with God’s help, of re-opening the church by 24th December.

They worked very hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting and refurbishing. By 18th December they were just about finished.

On 19th December a terrific storm which lasted for two whole days, broke over the city.

On 21st December the pastor went to check all was well, when to his dismay he saw that the roof had leaked and a large section of plaster had fallen down from the wall, right behind the pulpit, in full view from the seats.

What was he to do?

It seemed that the only thing was to postpone the service on 24th December. So sadly, he headed home wondering why this should have happened at this critical time.

His way home lay past a local business where a second-hand market was being held. As it was for charity, he called in. One of the items for sale was a most beautiful ivory-coloured tablecloth. It was evidently hand-made, and skilfully crocheted. As he looked at it he thought: “This is just the right size to cover up the hole left by the fallen plaster.” So having bought it, he hastened back to the church to see if it would hide the fault.

By this time it had started to snow. He noticed an older woman running in the opposite direction trying, in vain, to catch a bus. As she had to wait another forty five minutes for the next one, he invited her to come into the church and sit down in the warm. She sat silently in the pew and paid no attention to the pastor as he busied himself with a ladder affixing the tablecloth. When he had finished he was so thankful that the problem area was completely hidden. As he surveyed his work, he noticed the woman come walking down the aisle, her face as white as a sheet.

“Pastor,” she said, “where did you get that tablecloth?”

He gently explained where he had bought it. She then asked him to check whether the initials ‘EGB’ were crocheted in the lower right corner.

Sure enough there they were!

These were the initials of this lady. She had made this tablecloth thirty-five years before, while she stilled lived in Austria, her native country.

The woman could hardly believe how the pastor had come into possession of the tablecloth. She told him that before the war, she and her husband were prosperous people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was to follow the next week. Sadly she was captured and imprisoned and she never saw her husband or her home again.

Hearing this, the pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she insisted it be kept by the church. He did insist on driving her home, as she lived some miles away and had only come in to the area on a cleaning job.

The service on 24th December was well attended and much appreciated. The pastor and his wife hoped they would prove that the Lord had sent them for a purpose. One older man, however, did not leave the church but sat gazing intently at the tablecloth. The pastor wondered why he did not leave. Instead the man asked him where he had obtained the tablecloth which hung on the wall. He told the pastor that it was identical to the one his wife had made many years before in Austria.

How could there be two tablecloths so much alike?

He told the pastor how, when the Nazi’s came, his wife had been forced to flee for her own safety, and he was going to follow her. However, he had been arrested and thrown into prison for the duration of the war. It was thirty-five years ago since he had seen either his wife or his home.

The pastor asked him if he would mind being taken for a ride. The pastor then drove through the streets to the place where he had left the woman at her home three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the apartment and knocked on the door.

Words could not describe the wonderful re-union which then took place!

This true story is one of those many instances which prove that “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”

(Adapted from an account given by R. Reid)

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