Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Welcome Country Store

Sometimes God gives you exactly what you need and when you need it.  The intriguing part about when He does this, is that you never know WHERE He is going to act.  Such is the case with what happened to our group covering 100K as we stopped in at the Welcome Country Store in the community of Welcome, TX.

Day two of our journey was the most exhausting.  Fatigue had set in.  Soreness played a major factor.  Walking hour after hour in the sun had zapped much of our energy.  Even after resting for half an hour at Salem Lutheran Church of Welcome, many of the walkers could not keep up a steady pace.  We needed a burst of energy.  We needed a burst of inspiration.  We needed something, anything to inspire the motivation that we first felt when we set out.

I told the rest of our group that we would take a few minutes to stop at the Welcome Store.  Most of our group were bona-fide city gals.  They knew urban and sub-urban life.  I'm not sure how many had ever been to a country store, so they were going to get their chance. 

Welcome Country store is one of those throwback places.  When you walk in, you feel like you are taking a small trip back in time to the days where community life revolved around the church and the store.  Welcome Store is a gathering place where folks can get groceries, play games, sit at the bar and drink a beer while shooting the breeze with old timers and blue collar working folks who are relaxing after a hard day.

When you walk in the doors, the old wood floor creaks.  Off to your left are about half a dozen shelves filled with groceries.  Coolers along the wall hold soft drinks, and of course, beer.  (It is a German community, after all.)  To the right is the store counter filled with boxes of snacks and an old fashioned cash register.  To the back and right is the bar complete with bar stools.  Behind the bar is a classic mirror where you can look and see how the beer is affecting you.  The only incongruous item is the flat screen television, which on this day was set to one of the Sirius old time country stations.  In the back of the store is a game hall complete with pool table and eight liner machines.  Folks can sit on an assortment of wooden tables and folding chairs or on benches. 

Our group was clamoring for sodas.  I preferred the mini-bottles of Doctor Pepper which is made with Imperial Sugar instead of corn syrup.  Most of the ladies grabbed diet drinks.  (Didn't they realize how many calories we were burning on this trip?  Hey, live a little :-D )  Nearly everyone grabbed a chair and sat inside.  I walked outside and enjoyed sitting underneath the shade of the porch.  I finished off my eight ounces of Dr. Pepper rather quickly, so I went back inside to check on the rest of the group.

They were all busy talking and visiting.  Many of them were talking about our travels with the locals.  I knew we weren't going anywhere soon, so I grabbed a spot on one of the benches next to a couple of old timers.  Of course, they asked me what we were doing, and I was only too happy to share.

The old timers listened with amazement as I told them of our journey of 100 kilometers and how we were raising money for the people of the Central African Republic.  They were impressed.  It's not easy to get an old German man to show that he is impressed, but these two gents showed it.  But, in typical German fashion, they had to throw a little at you to keep you humble.

"Y'all are going to have fun on that hill in Industry," one of them remarked.

"Thanks for the reminder," I thought.  "I hear you," I spoke.  "But I've been trying to prepare them for it."

It was shortly after this comment that I shook hands with these two gents and stood up.  I knew it was time to round up our group and head out, but something was about to happen of which I had no clue.  As I walked toward the bar, two of the ladies sitting there were engaged in conversation with the lady tending the bar and cash register and with two gentlemen who had gotten off of work. 

I overheard one of the gentlemen say, "What are you doing this for?"

The two gals turned, pointed at me, and said, "Talk to him."

Again, I shared our story.  I talked of the situation in the Central African Republic.  Our desire to help them, and our willingness to walk 100 kilometers and get sponsors.

As I finished the story, one of the gentlemen reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.  He thumbed through a wad of cash and pulled out a 20.  "Here's a few dollars to help," he said.

A man who was raised in Cuba standing next to him pulled out 10 bucks.  "Here," he said.

The woman behind the counter reached into the cash register and pulled out another $20.

Our group was amazed.  Complete strangers had turned into supporters in a matter of moments.  It was exactly the pick me up that our group needed.  The Spirit fed our spirits as we headed out to complete the last leg of our second day.

God bless the Welcome Store and its patrons.  For they surely blessed us.

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