As you are all aware, Tropical Storm Michael blew into Winston Salem on October 11 knocking down trees, dumping rain and causing power outages in many parts of the city. Schools and businesses closed. Roadways were blocked. At the time, our weekly Friday morning NCS gathering at the River Birch Lodge was about 12 hours away.
There was much consternation about what we should do about the meeting. My text exchange on October 11 with Eddie Schapira from Riverbirch Lodge went as follows:
Eddie (at 5:31 pm): FYI – we don’t have power right now. Me: Keep me posted, but what if I bring eight LED lanterns and we fast and let it rip with the Holy Spirit? Billy’s story is amazing. We can send blast email for men to bring their own coffee. Eddie: No mike, no big deal – coffee if Starbucks is open no problem, lighting is the challenge. Me: How many LED lanterns do we need for the room ? 12? Eddie: That would be good. Me: I think that I have eight but will look for more. Eddie: I have one – that should be good. Starbucks is out of power too. The guys will live without coffee if we don’t have power. On the email blast tell the boys coffee is in question??? BYOC – bring your own coffee.
By that evening, I was talking with the planned speaker as well as a fellow member who could help us with communication if the plans changed.
Our speaker, Billy Rice (at 8:35 pm): Will we meet if there is no power at River Birch Lodge in the morning? Me: As of now that is the plan. I am in touch with Eddie. Planning to bring about eight LED lanterns and will send out an early morning email to announce we are still meeting and to bring your own coffee, though we will bring in a few cartons from Starbucks on Stratford. All I know is that the enemy went out of his way to keep some folks from hearing your story! Hopefully it will be a memorable morning. Billy: Sounds great. Will pray and trust. I’m up for whatever our great God has in mind. Thanks. David Phillips (asking if he can send an early morning email): I should be up at 5:00 am, so feel free to shoot me a text and let me know if I need to send anything.
At that point, I went to bed assuming we would proceed as scheduled. I had put it all in God’s hands. My phone was buzzing by early Friday morning.
Eddie (5:40 am October 12): No power FYI Me: OK. Bringing eight LED lanterns and three travelers of coffee. Dick Joyce: I’m picking up three coffee boxes at Dunkin Donuts plus some coffee rolls that we can cut up.
And closer to our start time, I had this exchange with Chuck Spong:
Chuck (driving along Robinhood Rd at 6:03 am): Power is completely out along Robinhood road-all traffic lights, the Robinhood Y…the Lodge. Be aware that Robinhood Rd. is closed. Me: We are meeting!! No worries. Bringing 10 LED lanterns. Will be a special morning. And it WAS a special morning! Over 90 men showed up at the Lodge that day. We had nine containers of coffee, fruit, chick-fil-A minis - and enough light to see. Everyone huddled close to hear the speakers. The power, energy and fellowship were palpable.
Chris Welch delivered an amazing story of God’s faithfulness, and Billy Rice shared the miracles that occurred surrounding his mother’s tragic death last September. Everyone who showed up was blessed. Darkness turned to light.
The experience truly begs the question: why do 90+ men make the effort to dodge downed trees and come to a place they expect to be in the dark???
Our investment in showing up consistently over 13 years is paying “joy dividends.” Men are hungry for authentic friendships. Once they experience the blessing of relationships connected in community - based on the promises of the Father and excitement of partnering with Jesus - they are willing to “gather and go.”
Our relationships are rooted in transparency and authenticity, though we often fall short. We make every effort to keep it real and live life together. We strive to be better husbands, fathers and servant leaders - even when living with the abundance and the attacks (John 10:10)! A special thanks to all the men who helped make our wonderful “blackout gathering” possible: Doug Blount and Bud Mitkiff for picking up food and setting out lights; Dick Joyce for helping bring in food as he does so often; Eddie for not wavering and trusting; Holli Billings for monitoring the situation to see what we needed (and asking to come!); Christian McConnon for showing up with name tags which we could barely read in the dim light. And others who make each Friday gathering possible.
If you haven’t been to the Lodge in a while, please come back between now and Christmas as we celebrate “Flashback Friday’s” with some of our local men who have spoken in the past. Invite someone to connect in community and focus on Jesus.