This is part of a series of posts we are calling 3DM Stories, which highlights “on the ground” testimonies of what God is doing in our movement. Today’s story is from Billy Hawks, a former air traffic controller who happened to stumble upon our weekly worship gathering one Sunday night at the local coffee shop in Pawleys Island. He was recently baptized, and this is his story of how it all started.
It started with a cup of coffee
Since I was feeling lonely and bored, I decided to walk down to the local coffee shop. Even though it was unusually crowded, I went in anyway. I quickly realized there was some kind of religious meeting or service going on.
In loud whispers, the woman that runs the shop was trying to tell me what was going on, who the group was, why they were there… People kept turning and looking at us and smiling. Inside, I was panicking, wanting to disappear.
So I ordered the coffee to go and scooted out the door as quickly as possible. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home. Safe!
But puzzled. I kept seeing the smiles, warm and genuine, in my mind. No questioning looks or frowns of disapproval, even though I had literally burst into the middle of their service. Just smiles.
Paying it forward
My curiosity piqued, I got on the Internet to see what I had just barged into. 3DM? Missional Community? Family on Mission? Church Planting? Discipleship? Huh? I might as well have been reading Greek. I didn’t have a clue as to what any of it meant.
So I went back to the coffee shop hoping for some answers. I thought the worship service thing must be over and I can talk to the owner now privately.
As I walked in the door, she was standing at the counter talking to a couple. Her eyes get as big as saucers and her mouth fell open. She smiled really big, pointed at me, and said “There he is!”
I was too stunned to run. So I closed my mouth, walked in (wondered why I hadn’t stayed home), and tried to act like all of this happens every day. She introduced me to the couple standing at the counter, who had been at the service, and were asking about me!
They had just bought me a credited cup of coffee for my next visit. They smiled at me that same warm way I had seen earlier.I asked them a lot of questions, which they tried to answer. However most of it was still lost on me at that point.
But they were kind and sincere and I was sure I had found something special. I was determined to come back the next week.
Coming back for more
The next Sunday I got there right as the service was starting. I hovered at the counter, watching and listening. The guy leading it said they were going to get in groups of 4 or 5 and pray for each other.
“Uh no, not me,” I thought, “Not ready for anything like that!” I don’t know what to say or pray for and I sure ain’t going to let them know it! So out the door I went, again with my coffee in hand, no one the wiser. Safe again.
After a week of berating myself, I came early the next Sunday, determined to get a seat and to just stay, come what may. I got there just as an extremely cheerful woman bounced out of her car, guitar in hand. She beamed at me, introduced herself, and told me to follow her. With no way to back out gracefully, I do.
We got inside and there were only a handful of people there. All women, mostly younger than me. They all introduced themselves, then they started to sing. But I didn’t sing. Because I don’t sing. Didn’t know the lyrics anyway.
But the next thing I knew, a young lady comes over and sits next to me, sharing her iPhone so I can see the lyrics. So… what could I do? I sang along. And no one grimaced or covered their ears! No one seemed to pay much attention at all. It was OK. Actually, it was really rather fun. We sang another song and I started to relax.
Then as they talked I found out that one of the women had just lost her baby that day and most everyone was with her at the hospital, out of town. As they talked in turn, I watched tears flow. Real tears. No hysterics, just genuine tears as they spoke of her and her struggles.
They cried openly and yet smiled and talked of a brighter future. There were prayers said for her and her family. By the end of the gathering, I couldn’t see a dry eye in the place and I was overwhelmed with the sense of honest, open, and sincere love. I was amazed.
The coffee cup that started it all
Whenever I think back on how this all happened I still am amazed. And grateful. I still have that styrofoam cup that contained my credited cup of coffee. It has written on it, “God loves you so much. You are His masterpiece. Perfect in every way.” It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever owned.
For me, that cup is the key God used to unlock the door to my heart. Today I am no longer alone, nor do I want to be. I am a part of a church family, a family on mission – the mission of disciples making disciples. For me, it means being around and doing all sorts of things, helping out in any way I can.
I get to do it with a group of people that don’t just preach the word but practice it on a daily basis. People that welcomed me and accepted me and have nurtured me along my walk. People that take me just as I am and love me in spite of myself. An active community of fellowship and challenge and hope in many different ways.
And all this started for me from a cup of coffee – and a smile.
P.S. This past Sunday Billy was baptized at our weekly worship gathering. Here are some pics from the celebration.