The Fosters

Creekside Gospel Music Convention

Canadian Thanksgiving Celebration: Thanksgiving with Strangers

Written by Staff on October 10, 2020 – 3:06 pm -

Infinitely More

Infinitely More: Allison Lynn and Gerald Flemming celebrate Thanksgiving with Strangers

By Allison Lynn

The image of us alone in our hotel room was more than I could bear.

It was just three days from Thanksgiving, and my husband, Gerald, and I were very far from home. As a touring ministry, we’ve gotten used to being away from our family for months on end. We’ve missed countless birthdays, anniversaries, and family celebrations because of our unconventional work schedule.

But this was the first time we were going to be away from our families for Thanksgiving.

We were currently on our first tour across the Canadian prairies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we didn’t know anyone for miles! Technically, I knew we would be away for Thanksgiving, but the reality of it didn’t really dawn on me before we hit the road. Now, the date loomed on the calendar. I could just see it: In three days, we would be alone in a hotel room, eating cheap take out, watching reruns on hotel cable, and feeling very sorry for ourselves.

The thought of it was more than I could bear. I decided to be proactive. I wrote a post on Facebook: “We’re about to spend Thanksgiving alone in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Does anyone know of a church or community center hosting a public dinner?” There, I thought, with all the people we know, someone has to have some idea!

A friend wrote back, “My friends live outside the city. I’ll connect you with them.”

So, three days later, we found ourselves driving to the town of Dauphin, Manitoba, to spend Thanksgiving with strangers.

Husband and wife, Gary and Betty Medwechuk, had a dream of building a small cabin next to their house. They wanted to create a quiet space where folks in ministry could retreat for rest and refreshment.

Our hand-scrawled directions led us to the sign: In His Rest Retreat. Gerald and I stepped out of the car, a little tired, a little hungry, and mildly apprehensive. Thanksgiving is a time for family. Would it be okay to intrude on this private celebration?

Thanksgiving

As we stepped into Betty and Gary’s home, we were immediately met with warmth. The wood stove took every bit of fall chill out of the air. The sun on the glittering lake was blindingly beautiful, and the smell of the food enwrapped us like a soft blanket. Turkey, stuffing, veggies, and piles of desserts – what a feast!

And the warmth didn’t just come from the home or the food. It came from Betty, Gary, and their guests. We gathered around the table; introductions were made. We discovered that no one there was family by blood. Instead, we were connected by something much greater.

Thanksgiving

Photo: https://images.app.goo.gl/mB35Z29VAkS74uJR9

Our apprehension melted away as we were drawn into this circle of friendship. We told stories, shared laughs, and, as the day called us to, gave thanks.

I was raised that you never come empty-handed to a dinner party, but making a dish is a bit of a challenge when you’re on the road. Instead, we offered them something else: “After the meal, if you like, we would love to perform a mini-concert for your guests, as our contribution to the evening.”

So, as everyone licked up the final crumbs of pumpkin pie, Gerald pulled out his guitar, and we began to sing. We shared songs we had written, filled with a message of hope and joy. We sang favorite hymns, and got our new friends to sing along with us. We ended with a prayer of thanks, and a roof-splitting version of “How Great Thou Art.”

Since that time, Betty and Gary have become our true friends. We’ve spent lots of time in their sweet cabin by the lake, and shared countless meals together. We’ve fallen in love with the glorious sunsets that blaze across the prairie sky. We’ve sung in their church, joining together in hours of worship and song.

We thought we were going to spend Thanksgiving with strangers, but you know, we really didn’t. We spent Thanksgiving with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve experienced this over the years. We’ll arrive in a town we’ve never visited to sing in a church we’ve never seen. We’ll arrange to meet a pastor we’ve never met and sing for an audience of absolute strangers. And yet, they are never strangers. We’re always, without fail, welcomed as family.

And every time, I’m reminded of this instruction:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2, ESV)

Canadian Thanksgiving

Photo: https://images.app.goo.gl/DACfPEJX8heha6bi8

Normally, I might take this moment to encourage you to invite a stranger into your home this Thanksgiving, but as I write this today, we are still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. No doubt, our celebrations this year will be much more intimate. So, in a world of social distancing, what are some other ways we can share our Thanksgiving celebrations with those around us?

Perhaps you could support your church’s Thanksgiving outreach with a gift of time or resources? Local food banks will also need extra donations this season. Perhaps there’s a family on your street who could use a grocery gift card to help provide their meal? Or a shut-in who would appreciate a home-cooked delivery? If cooking isn’t your gift, perhaps you could make a flower arrangement or craft item to brighten someone’s table? And let’s not forget the blessing of technology! Why not host your Thanksgiving dinner over Zoom or Skype so your whole family can participate?

Even in the midst of these trials and challenges, we are loved and blessed. Let’s take time to give thanks, and share our blessings with those around us.

In doing this, who knows? You might just entertain angels unawares…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated technically on the second Monday in October, but it usually expands to the complete three day weekend, October 10-12, 2020. Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

Jim Brady. Allison Lynn.

Infinitely More: Gerald Flemming and Allison Lynn

By Allison Lynn

Allison Lynn and her husband, Gerald Flemming, form the award-winning duo, Infinitely More. Infinitely More creates a fusion of folk, pop, hymns, and worship that soothes the heart and ignites the soul. Based out of beautiful St. Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls!) this full-time nationally touring ministry annually drives to every province in Canada, singing in churches of all sizes and denominations. Their songwriting and recordings have been nominated for 15 national music awards. Their latest album – The Beauty Of The One – was honored with two Covenant Awards from The Gospel Music Association of Canada. In all things, Allison and Gerald strive to bring God’s light and love to a world in need.

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Jim Brady blesses a mourning husband

Written by Staff on October 9, 2020 – 10:31 am -

Jim and Melissa Brady

Jim and Melissa Brady

“Mourn With Those Who Mourn” – How Jim Brady Blessed My Father-in-Law

 

By Allison Lynn

 

My bleary eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness. Why was my husband, Gerald, standing over me with mugs of coffee in his hands? Had I overslept? Why was it so dark?

 

I struggled to make sense of his words, “Dad called. Mom is in organ failure. She’s not going to make it.”

 

Jim Brady blesses a mourning husband

Gerry and Sandy Flemming

Two hours later, we arrived at my mother-in-law’s hospital bedside, just in time to witness the minister giving the last rites. “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust…” “Our Father, who art in heaven…” What followed was a surreal series of scenes: my weeping father-in-law, breaking the news to the neighbors, meeting with the funeral home director.

 

Sandy and Gerry Flemming had been married for over 50 years. Their journey had begun in a small town in New Brunswick, Canada. By the time I joined the family, Sandy and Gerry were close to retirement and living in a quiet suburban neighborhood, just north of Toronto, Ontario. They’d raised two amazing children – my husband, Gerald, and my beautiful sister-in-law, Kristi. Add in Kristi’s husband, Walt, and their sweet son, Connor, and we were a small, close-knit family. 

 

Sandy had three loves in life: her family, cooking, and Southern Gospel music. She loved nothing better than to have everyone gathered around the dining room table, feasting on her mouthwatering lasagna and her legendary apple crumble pudding. We had a deep well of memories created by laughing and teasing and loving on Sandy.

 

And now, she was missing from the table.

 

I could hardly imagine what my father-in-law was facing. My in-laws were private people. There wouldn’t be a parade of well-wishers at the funeral. What could I do to honor Sandy and show Gerry how much he’s loved?

 

I remembered that third love: Southern Gospel.

 

When Gerald and I were first married, we sold everything we owned and moved to Nashville to pursue our music ministry dreams. One of my great blessings at that time was working as Ben Speer’s assistant. Ben was an absolute legend. We couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting to shake his hand and share how much his music meant to them. Yet, with all that fame, he also became our friend and mentor.  With my work at Ben Speer’s Stamps-Baxter School of Music, I’d been able to meet many of the Southern Gospel artists loved by my in-laws. I started to write some of their favorites, sharing Sandy’s loss, and asking if they might reach out to Gerry in his grief.

 

Booth Brothers. Allison Lynn.

Sandy Flemming in autographed photo of the Booth Brothers with Jim Brady

The most important letter I wrote was to Jim Brady. Sandy and Gerry loved the Booth Brothers and the Jim Brady Trio. And when I say “loved”, I don’t use that word lightly! My in-laws were homebodies, but they thought nothing of driving six hours in the Canadian snow to watch a Jim Brady concert. 

 

Jim and Melissa knew my in-laws by name. Gerry loved to tell “The Legend of the Sweet Tea”. Michael Booth would (jokingly) complain that his only regret about singing in Canada was the lack of sweet tea. Well, on one of their concert trips south of the border, my in-laws filled their trunk with jugs of Cracker Barrel sweet tea. Michael, Ronnie, and Jim almost fell off the stage when Gerry and Sandy gave it to them at their next Canadian concert! 

 

And the relationship only grew stronger over the years. Sandy and Gerry discovered that Melissa had a special love for the iconic Tim Hortons Canadian Maple donut. So, they never showed up for a concert without an entire box of sweet treats for Melissa! 

 

Jim & Melissa Brady Announce Touring Changes

Melissa and Jim Brady

It made sense, then, when Gerry asked Gerald and me to sing a Jim Brady song for Sandy’s funeral. “On My Way Home” sings of the fleeting nature of this world and the glorious true home that awaits us in heaven. Gerald worked out a guitar arrangement and we created our own duo harmonies. I wrote to Jim to let him know that his song would be sung to honor Sandy. I hoped he’d reach out to send a small word of encouragement to Gerry.

 

The funeral came and went, but no word from Jim. I knew he was busy touring, but still, I was surprised by his silence. It didn’t seem like him not to respond to something like this.

 

A few months before Sandy’s passing, Gerry had purchased tickets for an upcoming Jim Brady Trio concert. As the date loomed, we all wondered what he would do. None of us were able to attend with him, and we hated the idea of him going alone. But attending Southern Gospel concerts was his and Sandy’s favorite thing to do together, and all Gerry wanted to do was honor his bride. 

 

Now, just ten days after burying the love of his life, my father-in-law sat alone at the concert, empty chair by his side.

 

The music started, and the Trio entered the stage. Jim stopped, gestured to my father-in-law and said, “Gerry…” Then, they started to sing “On My Way Home,” just like we had sung at the funeral! The Trio had chosen that song for Gerry, and for Sandy.

 

Younger Perspective on Layke Jones by Erin Stevens

Jim Brady Trio

Gerry’s heart swelled and his tears flowed as he felt the love and the music washing over him.

 

Just before the intermission, the Trio sang another song about heaven. As they got to the final chorus, they left the stage, stood around Gerry, and sang it directly to him. The track ended, and Jim said, “Let’s sing that chorus again, acapella”. They laid their hands on my father-in-law and sang to him about the hope beyond all hope.

 

Jim had received my email! He knew Gerry would be at the concert and planned those songs as his special gift of love.

 

This was ministry, pure and simple. There was no showiness, no exploiting of a widower’s grief. Jim was simply following scripture: “Mourn with those who mourn.” “Encourage each other and build one another up.” “Love one another, as I have loved you.” 

 

Gerry called us the next day. As he shared the story, tears flowed from all of us. Tears of grief for the loss of Sandy, and tears of joy for Jim’s precious act of love. 

 

At that moment, Jim and the Jim Brady Trio reminded all of us of the true power of Gospel music: to lift up the brokenhearted, to love those who are hurting, and to share the promise of our one true home.

Allison Lynn. Infinitely More

Infinitely More: Gerald Flemming and Allison Lynn

By Allison Lynn

Allison Lynn and her husband, Gerald Flemming, form the award-winning duo, Infinitely More. Infinitely More creates a fusion of folk, pop, hymns, and worship that soothes the heart and ignites the soul. Based out of beautiful St. Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls!) this full-time nationally touring ministry annually drives to every province in Canada, singing in churches of all sizes and denominations. Their songwriting and recordings have been nominated for 15 national music awards. Their latest album – The Beauty Of The One – was honored with two Covenant Awards from The Gospel Music Association of Canada. In all things, Allison and Gerald strive to bring God’s light and love to a world in need.

Phone Friendly SGN Scoops Magazine Here

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Download SGN Scoops Magazine PDF Here

Listen To Todays Southern Gospel Here

 

 


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