If you’ve read this column for any length of time, you know I’m a missionary. I spend part of the year living in some of the most remote parts of the world. That makes the framework for this week’s article even more interesting.
I have a younger brother who lives in Kansas. Although I’ve only visited there a few times, I have nothing against this great state. I’m sure it’s a wonderful place. But driving across it reminds me of purgatory: you have no idea when you’ll get out.
My brother’s only daughter got married last Saturday, an event I wouldn’t have missed. I can’t tell you exactly where I went, but I’ll say this: my cell phone works around the world. Even last summer when I lived in the jungles of Panama, it went off one night with a text from Sam’s Club pharmacy. But as I left Oklahoma and traveled deeper into Kansas, I noticed my reception signal going down. Every 30 minutes, I lost another bar. When the last one disappeared, I knew our destination must be near.
My wife has a condition that makes it important for her to eat on time. If she doesn’t, she becomes irritated with the driver. Since I’m usually the driver, I do my best to ensure regular meals. At lunchtime, we’d seen no signs of civilization for a half-hour or more. I decided to turn on my GPS monitor, which runs on a satellite signal, and type in “restaurant.”
The GPS showed us three restaurants straight ahead, with no more for another 30-plus miles. Our no-signal Kansas town had three dining alternatives. As we neared the first one, my wife took one look and said, “I’m not going in there.” The tiny, box-like building looked as though it had seen better days. A worn coat of paint seemed to be the only thing holding the boards together. Still, the parking lot contained a fair number of cars. I told my wife, “They must have good, home-cooked food. Look at all the people!”
“Let’s try the other places first,” she said. We went to the next one and recognized it as a fancy restaurant because every plastic table had its own tablecloth. But the sign out front read, “Closed.” Next, we came to a Mexican café. It also sported a big, blazing sign: “Closed.” About that time, it dawned on us why we saw so many cars at the first place.
We made our way back to what seemed to be our only possibility for a meal. We entered and stood still for a moment. My wife whispered, “Are we supposed to wait for someone to seat us?” Her voice carried enough that a couple leaving the restaurant snickered and said, “Naw, just seat yourselves.”
As we found a table, we felt the eyes of every customer upon us. We were probably the only people they didn’t know. As we sat down, we noticed each table came with the customary napkins and salt-and-pepper shakers. But I can’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant where flyswatters were part of the table decor.
Our waitress appeared with an abrupt question: “Do you need a menu?” Our “yes” response confirmed to the crowd that outsiders had joined them.
As we waited for our food, we learned more about no-signal restaurant etiquette. When you finish your meal, you don’t leave. Instead, you join another group of people who are still eating. I saw one couple make it to three tables and wondered if they’d expect us to do the same.
But in the no-signal restaurant, you don’t have to go to other customers’ tables to talk to them. You can just yell across the dining room. By the time we left, I knew Brenda saw Jim heading west to another no-signal Kansas town, that Bob had been under the weather and more.
Our lunch finally arrived, a delicious prelude to a beautiful wedding. That afternoon, we had a great time visiting family. As we left no-signal land and headed back toward Oklahoma that night, the distance and the trouble finding a place to eat seemed small compared to the blessings we received. There’s nothing like spending time with people you love.
When you drive across no-signal Kansas, you have lots of time to think, so I did. Jesus left a wonderful place called Heaven and came to this no-signal Earth in order that we could become a part of His family. He went through terrible pain and suffering so we could one day reach His banquet table. And the end result was worth it all.
Take time today to thank God for your family. You can reach Him even when you don’t have a signal.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, email walker@awestar/org. Phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827.