Monday, November 2, 2015

All Are Welcome

I spent a recent weekend touring the small town of Hillsborough, North Carolina with my childhood friend, Karen. We grew up next door to each other, sharing the sweet innocence of a childhood rich with stories and games and adventures. Through teenage heartache, homework and growing pains, we remained steadfast friends. And on this weekend, our grown-up selves found the town of Hillsborough a charming place, reminding us both of where we are from.  Like stepping back in time to a simpler place.

We walked along the scenic River Walk, a trek through nature along the Eno River.  Karen led us off the trail to point out a local barbecue joint we might consider for lunch, but I was drawn to the beautiful old church nearby. Sitting atop a rolling hill, the church called to me with its fine architecture and weathered paint. The front door flung wide open, three people sitting alongside, racks of clothes at the back door, the boom box playing Gospel music, a stack of saltines and a jar of peanut butter spread out picnic style . . . elements of a very fine invitation. I couldn’t quite work up the courage to just walk up and say hello, so I snapped a picture from afar with the only camera I had on hand, my iPhone. Not wanting to disturb the goings on, I took my picture quickly and prepared to move along.

But Reverend Louise had other plans! She called and waved us to join her and her friends. Not shy at all, she posed for a picture from the get go and welcomed us as members of her church.  If you visit here, you a member.

Reverend Louise told us the story of her life, or at least the best parts. She is 79 years old and the pastor of this little church that serves everyone and anyone. She told us how she had open heart surgery in 1959 to close a hole in her heart, discovered when she was pregnant with her daughter, the first of the five girls she would bring into this world. After the surgery, she was so grateful to God that she devoted her life to service and living out her faith. She worked as a nurse’s aide tending the sick and those with disabilities, and preached the word of the Lord in this little church in her hometown.

Leading us through the 100 year-old church, Louise showed off each area from the pulpit to the bathrooms, describing her plans for rehabilitation for the old structure. Even though run down, she saw the possibilities and did not let disrepair stand in the way of her ministry.

She shared pictures of her family – the five daughters and her husbands. That would be all three husbands. Louise was quick to clarify.  I had three husbands, but I didn’t kill a one of them.  The Lord called ‘em all home!

With clippings from an old newspaper, Louise told us about her sister who apparently held the world record for having the most sets of twins – FIVE!

Outside the church, Louise introduced us to her brother and his soon-to-be wife. Making friendly small talk, I asked the gentleman about his upcoming marriage.  He replied with a quick dry wit, Well, I don’t know nothing about no marriage. That be up to the Lord!  Didn’t sound like he was fully committed to the idea to me.

Reverend Louise wanted to know all about us, too. We told her the story of our friendship and thanked her over and over again for her hospitality. In true Southern style, she wouldn’t dream of sending us off empty handed, giving each of us a small figurine of a sweet little nun (I’m not sure, but I think a smiling nun holding a ruler sends mixed messages).  I offered to send copies of the pictures to her. When I wrote down my name and email address, she looked at the page and said, Put ‘white girls’ under your name so I can remember who you are.

While not on the list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Hillsborough, the church and Reverend Louise were not to be missed. Where else can you go and always be welcome?

Free Free Free
All are welcome
To eat lunch with us.
Free clothes to anyone
who need them.
We love you + God do to.

Epilogue.  This was one of those serendipitous events that forever change you. The kind, where even in the moment, you know you should listen and learn. I must admit that it was huge leap of faith for me to walk into the life of a complete stranger, and at first I really wished I had my fancy dslr camera. But sometimes the story is not about the perfect picture . . . but the other way around so that the picture helps us to recall the story perfectly. I suppose this is true more often than not.


  1. I loved this post! What a God given encounter and what a hoot!

  2. I would have loved to have been with you on this trip. Such a meaningful encounter. You remembered it perfectly and documented it beautifully. This is a post to be read over and over again, so many positive and loving messages in your words and Reverand Louise's wisdom and message to the world. All Are Welcome. Isn't that the way life should be?
    Thank you for this Donna. Thank you for taking the time to Stop. Have a beautiful week. xo

  3. What a heartwarming post and such a beautiful encounter for you!

  4. These are God-encounters! Love this story!

  5. I loved reading this, and what a story Louise has! She's one of the people in the world that is truly making a difference in other's lives, as you are Donna, by telling her story and taking pictures.

  6. You have such a gift for telling stories, my friend, even when you don't use words. Thank you for walking into this story and sharing it with us. I've shared it with several already. There is a profound message here, about many things, and really, about One thing. Blessings, my friend. PS I'm glad you've activated comments again. I've missed being able to respond to your offerings :)

  7. Oh Donna, I wish I had known you were going to be so close by...I live in Winston Salem but I was in Raleigh last week which is only a few miles from Hillsborough. It sounds like you had an incredible time while you were here. I love this story you shared today. Louise is really having an impact on other's lives through her wonderful and gracious attitude. And by the way, so are you. I think you are a person I'd love to get to know....

  8. To repeat one of your comments on my blog, "Amen!" If you had had your "Big Girl" camera, you might have you might have been fiddling with the dials and missed a comment or a gesture from this remarkable woman. You would have learned as much without any camera at all, but you were able to record this experience for yourself . . . and us. And we are grateful to know Pastor Louise.

  9. It is almost never about the perfect picture, but ALWAYS about the story, that is true photography, and you did good girl <3. Glad to see you turned your comments back on :)

  10. Thank you Donna for sharing such a beautiful and rich encounter... You show so much kindness and such receptive and benevolent feelings towards people you meet on your way and get so much from them in return... Through your eyes and writings you share with us their stories as unique and singular... You see the best side in every people...

  11. Awesome! You white girls sure had a treat. The nun with the ruler cracks me up!


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