Cork and Bean: It’s a coffee shop and a wine bar, self-described as “a mountain social house,” and it’s where I am now. Here in Bryson City, North Carolina, things are moving slowly at this moment (and the coffee is good), but my mind is racing, making any amount of Hebrew studying or reading almost an impossibility.
This week has been an absolute wonderful time in Cherokee, NC serving as speaker and associate staff for an MTW (Mission to the World) missions week. Early mornings, work projects, seeing old friends, and being in the Word with God’s people is as refreshing as it is stretching, but after making an impromptu trip to Lowe’s for a good amount of supplies needed for some end-of-the-week work projects, the afternoon is free, as all of the teams have their half-day off. I don’t know quite what to do with myself. So here I am at the Cork and Bean, and I’m thankful.
“I don’t smoke,” he said as he looked over at me. “But if I wanted to break the barrier with him, that’s just what I had to do.” My elder brother explained this to me as we rode back the other night, sharing with me that certain good conversations here in this part of the country occur on the porch over a cigarette. I’m not advocating smoking, but I am advocating barrier breaking.
Last night I had the privilege to ride with the two other associate staffers here this week to visit a potential work site. The three of us, sandwiched in a pick-up truck, made our way over to Tsali Manor, an elderly community here in Cherokee, and when we arrived, I witnessed these men do what they do best: love people. These two associate staffers are my elder brothers, men farther down the Christian path than I am, and to witness their interactions with the elderly in this community was a simple pleasure. One of my brothers conversed with a woman about her garden, marveling at the beans snaking their way up her deck and sharing in the dismay that, despite both of their efforts, their respective tomato crops have failed to redden so far this season. The other talked with a gentlemen who was out walking a regiment set up by his doctor. The man, within the last year, had lost his wife. Time and again these men moved from neighbor to neighbor as we surveyed the potential sites. I was just along for the ride, a spectator to the seasoned love, sincerity, and humanity of these two saints. These men don’t smoke, but they are willing to light up just to have a conversation with someone who needs Jesus. That, dear friends, is gospel love.
This evening, one of the men left due to some minor complications in his health, and as a small group of us prayed for him in the office before he drove off, I became keenly aware that I really don’t know anything, that sometimes I just need to sit and watch those who have been traveling the Christian journey for so much longer. In reference to our civil authorities, but certainly to our elders as well, Paul tells us to “pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed,” (Romans 13:7). Honor and respect are owed to these men, men who have dedicated their lives to mastering deck building, visitations, gardening, Lowe’s runs, and cleaning bathrooms in order to reach others for the great name of Jesus. Friends, let’s just sit, learn, and be thankful for the gifts that God gives us: our seasoned brothers.