by Pastor Tim Burt
Note from Pastor Tim: It’s been a very long time since I’ve taken a break from writing. Renee and I will be taking a couple of weeks to refresh and spend time with family over Thanksgiving! I’ll be back to writing on 11-27-2023. In the meantime, catch up on some past posts you may have missed by going to TimBurt.org and clicking on archives. We’ll be praying for you and hope you’ll pray for us! God bless you.
The Unexpected Gift From God!
It was a beautiful fall Friday night. The team was all there. The preparations were all finished, and everything was in place. The guests would be arriving shortly.
Pastor Tim had been planning this evening for months. It was an experiment. He knew there were people in the church who did not know each other and would probably never connect without someone’s help and introduction. And Pastor Tim had learned through years of ministry that people love to connect over food. And so he planned his first ever Getting Acquainted Dinner.
He had saved money for the budget of this event for three months. He had invited 96 people and wanted them to enjoy a delicious dinner with a great dessert. He had recruited a kitchen team by casting the vision of this night—bringing people who did not know each other together over a beautiful dinner. He believed that acquaintances would be sparked and wonderful relationships would be formed. For months he had prayerfully thought through every detail of the event and was ready. The guests were about to come and enjoy a delicious dinner of lasagna, a salad, warm garlic-buttered breadsticks, and strawberry cheesecake for dessert. He was confident that they would love it. And his prayer was that they’d begin to make lasting relationships—some becoming rich friendships.
Pastor Tim had prepared the letter, inviting people who were new to the church in the last three months to this beautiful free dinner. He let them know that the reason for putting on the dinner was simply to help people get acquainted with others they did not know. He had also announced from the pulpit that this letter would be going out and that a fun night had been planned for newcomers to the church at no cost to them. Within five days of the letter going out, every seat was filled! The anticipation for the night was growing!
Pastor Tim recruited 22 seasoned church members who had loving and warm personalities to help host—two hosts per table. They would help the guest get seated, begin introductions, and lead the table to play the Getting Acquainted Game after dinner.
Finally, the night had come, and everybody was prepared for this wonderful experiment that had already gone amazingly well before anyone even arrived. Everyone on the team had been praying for this night for some time, and they were so blessed to see their prayers answered.
Pastor Tim and his wife made themselves hosts at his table. The dinner turned out delicious, people loved meeting each other and playing the getting acquainted game, and everybody was laughing and enjoying themselves in conversation.
At Pastor Tim’s table, he was asking Ben, the guest sitting next to him, where he was originally from. “Saint Cloud, Minnesota,” was Ben’s response as he told a little bit more about himself and his family. Ben shared that he was one of three children, having a brother and sister. But he shared that his brother had died in a fire a few years ago, and it was still hard on him and his sister. He continued to share how the most tragic part of their brother’s death was that he and his sister did not know if their brother, who died, knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior. They so desperately wanted him to be in Heaven with them one day but were not sure he had made that decision to receive Jesus. “My sister and I talk about this a lot, and it bothers us not knowing,” said Ben.
Suddenly, one of the church members, Ron, sitting next to Ben, said, “I knew a man from Saint Cloud, Minnesota, who died in a fire. “What was your brother’s name?” Ben told Ron his brother’s name, and Ron’s face lit up! “I knew your brother!” Ron said. “I was with your brother two days before he died. I had shared Jesus with your brother, and he prayed the sinner’s prayer with me! He asked Jesus into his heart that day! So he will be with you and your sister in heaven!”
Ben immediately teared up and could hardly talk through his tears! He was overwhelmed with joy. He stood up and gave Ron a long, extended bear hug. Then he asked to excuse himself so that he could go call his sister and tell her what he had just learned. Ben went out of the room, but we could see him through a glass wall talking to his sister on his cell phone. Tears of joy, crying, and laughing were happening in that phone call. Everyone at the table was crying tears of joy!
When Ben came back, he looked at the table and pronounced to everyone at it, “This might just be one of the best nights of my entire life. I came to meet a few people and get acquainted, but tonight, my sister and I received a gift from God through somebody we met at our table whom we will never be able to thank enough! Tonight, we learned that my new friend, Ron, led our brother to the Lord two days before he died in a fire. So now we no longer have to wonder! Ron has let us know! And we are so thankful to know that we’ll be able to reunite with him when our time comes! For God to reveal this to us tonight in such a surprising and wonderful way is a miracle of God’s kindness and grace! With tears running down his face, Ben said, “I’m sorry. I am so happy I can hardly compose myself!” Joyful tears were abounding at the table!
Pastor Tim couldn’t imagine a better way to conclude the evening than to have Ben share the story with all the Getting Acquainted guests. You could see tears of joy in every single person’s eyes. The entire night went beyond what anyone could’ve ever asked or hoped for. Friendships were sparked, the experiment of the night was a success, and for the next 30 years, the Getting Acquainted dinner became the number one way people met each other in church. Many other miracles happened at those dinners over the years!
The story of Ron and Ben was told again and again at Getting Acquainted Dinners, and it never failed to touch people’s hearts. Pastor Tim had a saying that he often said to people at this dinner. We all like to pick our own friends in life, but when we leave it up to the Lord, He will pick out our better friends!
And in case you are wondering… Yes, I am Pastor Tim in this story, and it is a true story!
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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