When Lois–our would-be benefactress–passed away on Aug. 9, 2011, the dream of having her home to use as an “Elisha house” in Walnut Cove seemed to shrivel up and die with her. For weeks after her sudden death at age 93, I was confused, disheartened, without clear direction. I had been so sure that Lois would live to see her house in our hands and even be the guest of honor when we dedicated the Lois Dodson Smith Room of Walnut Cove History in that very house.
Now she was gone, and the house had passed to First Baptist Church–the very church where the dream of having an Elisha house was birthed in my heart as a little girl. In addition to the heartache of losing the house, there was the greater heartache of the loss of Lois. I was devastated, having intended to spend time with her once I quit my editor’s job in September, but she passed a month before that.
And my mind kept going back to Sunday morning, July 3, 2011, when I had been sure that God had given us a clear sign that the house would be ours. On that day, our Times of Refreshing group was having our regular church service at the beauty shop where we met. By our starting time of 9:30, only six people were there; several were missing. Strangely enough, the ones present were the only ones who had had ties with my ministry for several years.
I suddenly felt to tell this “elect group” all about Lois’ house and the controversy surrounding it. Up to that point, my mom, my hubster and I had kept the situation private. My friend Yvonne–my dear friend who used to be a crack addict before she devoted her life to the Lord–said that her street friends/crack addicts/drug dealers would come to that house if we ran it. She said she could feel the Spirit running all up and down in her the more we talked about the house. She was bold and said that she really felt that we would get it. She believed that end of town seems to be darker than the rest of Walnut Cove and needs a light somewhere.
I told them that I felt we should gather in a circle and worship together for a while, then pray individually for discernment, then actually go over to Lois’ house–less than a mile away. When our circle broke apart and we went our separate ways, I hit my knees and began to listen to the Lord.
Suddenly I heard Him say that the person who walked right up to the door of Lois’ house and touched the doorknob would know immediately if the house was supposed to be ours. It startled me so much that I nearly jumped out of my skin. I pondered getting a piece of paper and writing what He had said to me so that I would have proof it happened once we all got to the house, but I didn’t want to disturb everyone’s prayer time.
I began asking the Lord if I should go first and run to be the one to touch the doorknob. But no–I felt a peace that whoever got there first would be the right one. Even though my hubster and I brought up the rear of the vehicle procession to Lois’ house (we had to lock up the beauty shop), I still figured I could quickly get to the door. I assumed no one else would think to go to the door, since it was locked and they had seemed more interested in walking around the property.
But as I got out of my car, I saw Darlene march boldly up to that door. I felt my breath catch in my chest. She opened that outer door and grabbed the doorknob. I couldn’t believe (oh Leslie of little faith) that it was happening as He said it would.
Darlene immediately smiled and turned around to motion for me. She pointed to a decorative window area to the right of the door and asked, “What do you see?” I saw two slivers of wood that had fallen from the wooden framing and had landed on the sill in the shape of a cross.
I gasped, “A cross.”
Darlene nodded and said, “We’re supposed to have this house.” We all began rejoicing and grew teary-eyed. Sandy felt to go get her anointing oil.
Darlene anointed the front doorknob.
I felt to go anoint the side door which was a separate entrance to the master bedroom suite (Elisha’s chamber!). I wept as I did it, imagining that my childhood dream of having a little room for the prophet was about to come true.
As we later walked around the property. Darlene said it was like coming home to Grandma’s house. Two familiar crack addicts walked by, looking at us. I waved and called them by name. They are my friends. Yvonne said that the house would provide a place for such people to come–to have something to do, to get counseling, to find help.
As we were leaving–in a jubilant mood, having even taken our picture in front of the house–my mom lifted her hands and said, “Eli-sha [pronounced in Hebrew el-ee-shah’]–God sets free!” I froze because when I anointed the bedroom door, I had remembered how I once thought we should call the house “Elisha House” in honor of the little chamber the Shunammite woman built onto her house for the prophet to be refreshed.
I left Lois’ house that morning, knowing for the first time that it was supposed to belong to Times of Refreshing.
But that was in July. Now it was August, Lois was gone and the house had been given away. Were we wrong that July morning? Did we just THINK we heard the voice of God?
Before we knew it, it was autumn. Sometimes someone would bring up the disappointment over the house. By then, I had a strange peace and would just smile at them, saying, “It’s not over yet, you know.” It SEEMED to be over, but I knew down deep that it wasn’t.
We never said another word about the house to outside sources. Before Lois died–when she was so upset over her house not being given to us–I had pleaded with those concerned to follow Lois’ wishes–truly not out of gain to me (the house was so decrepit it would’ve been easier to let someone else have it!) but out of a desire to see a dying woman’s wishes granted.
But once she was gone, I took my hands off the issue and stepped aside. Hadn’t Lois’ last words to us been that it was in God’s hands now?
And then one day, a miracle happened. A phone call came from a leader at First Baptist Church. We were informed that the pastor, a very Godly man named Jim, had told the church trustees that he didn’t feel it was right for them to accept Lois’ house. He recounted to them how she had told him time and time again that she wanted her house to go to me and my mom.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude! This was a pastor who truly wanted to do the right thing, whose heart must be pure before God. Even if nothing came of his desire to give us the house, I knew that I would forever honor him for his sense of justice.
When word came that the trustees had voted to give us the house, my amazement grew. Although I had trusted God to move in this situation and felt instinctively that the house issue wasn’t dead, seeing it unfold before my eyes was incredible.
But that wasn’t the last step. Next, the vote would go to the deacons. Pastor Jim kept insisting to them that he, with his own ears, had heard Lois make her wishes plain.
We were on pins and needles to hear the outcome of the deacons’ vote. What joy when the call came that their decision was also “yes”!
But it was not over yet. The final step would be to bring the issue to the entire church. The vote would be held on Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb. 5, 2012.
I was tantalizingly close to seeing my childhood dream of having an Elisha house come true, but it all rested on a vote by the people at the very church that helped birth that dream in me. . .
(Continued in “If You Build It–Part IV”)