Patrick Cardwell, First Baptist member and 2014-2015 Seminary Intern, is spending his summer in Texas as an intern at Broadway Baptist Church.
Last week was probably my most challenging one yet in my summer internship at Broadway Baptist Church. With both directors of the Community Center away on a mission trip in New Mexico, I was responsible for making sure it didn’t fall apart – with the help of tireless and invaluable volunteers, of course.
Tuesday saw us hand out 102 sack lunches, give clothing to 23 people, and help a dozen guests through the grocery market. It was a busy day. Wednesday was a slow day, but the action picked back up on Thursday, as clothing volunteers stayed an extra half-hour. To top it all off, as I was leaving for lunch on Thursday, UPS delivered 134 boxes of children’s school uniforms, which were unloaded in the afternoon. Needless to say, by the end of the week I was tired, and left with tremendous respect for all that the directors and volunteers do. What’s more, I was only responsible for three days, while they put in countless hours Monday through Friday.
I tell you all that to say that by the time Thursday evening rolled around, I was in desperate need of some grace. And you know what? I found it. That Amazing Grace of which John Newton wrote was found in the foyer of the chapel at 5:35 PM on Thursday.
Each Thursday night, the church hosts an Agape Meal, where nearly 200 people in need of a hot meal share one around tables in the fellowship hall, followed by a voluntary worship service. Guests for the Agape Meal begin lining up outside the chapel, where they wait before the meal is served. The line begins forming at least 45 minutes before the chapel doors are opened at 5 PM. Now I’ve never had to do it, but standing in the sun for 45 minutes in the Texas heat sounds grueling, so we offered water to our guests as they entered the chapel. After 100 people or so had filed through the line and received their share of cool refreshment, a small, thin woman came back in search of more. I wasn’t entirely sure that there would be enough left in the container for another cup, but if she was willing, so was I. As she put her cup under the spout, I tipped the orange container forward, and out came just enough water for another cup. She voiced her appreciation and made her way back to her seat. It took me a few minutes to understand the exchange that had happened, but I was moved to tears as I thought about our encounter. As images and recollections of John 4 came to mind, I reflected on the sweetness of that moment.
The woman, gaunt and sweaty, came expectant. She expected to get a cup of water. She expected to receive grace. As for me, I wasn’t too sure that there would be enough. I was not convinced that she would find what she sought. But isn’t that God’s way? Meeting the needs of those who long for something as simple as a cup of water, or as deep as a well of grace?
That woman and I both came to that space with needs. They turned out to be the same, but we approached the situation differently. She came with expectant hope. I came worn out and doubtful. But in that moment together, both our needs were met. We both received amazing grace – in different forms, but grace nonetheless. And perhaps what may be most grace-filled about the encounter is that we met one another’s needs. I gave her a drink of water, and she reminded me of the power of God’s grace. That moment quenched my thirsty soul like the water that filled her cup.
May we all come to God’s water cooler like that precious daughter of God, expectant and hopeful, knowing that the One who feeds the sparrow will surely allow us to drink deeply from wells of grace that never run dry. That sounds good, doesn’t it? I think I’ll have a glass of that.
For more about Broadway Baptist’s Agape Meal, watch the video below: