Two weeks ago I was sitting in Timonium, Maryland. I was having what felt like a horrible day and I really wanted to go home (like back to Texas home). As I said in my previous post, it did not feel like things in Maryland always went well for me and this specific moment was low.
I was walking around the store, well more like dragging myself through the store. I really didn’t want to talk to anyone but I mustered up the courage to approach a customer for the promotion. I didn’t know why I was going to talk to this man. I really didn’t want to talk to this man, but I did it anyway.
I threw on the happiest fake smile, walked up behind him and in the most bubbly voice I could conjure up, I bounced up and said “Hey sir! How are you doing this evening?!” He turned around, kind of skeptical some random girl from Texas was approaching him, but responded anyway.
While he declined my offer, we got to talking and he did tell me his favorite part of Texas was San Antonio. In fact, his exact words were “If you read the history of the Alamo, it explains why Texans do in fact call themselves Texans and not Americans.” (He had a point).
Our conversation about the Alamo then spurred to a conversation about history in general. He told me about all the historical sights as far south as South Carolina, as far north as New York, and as far west as West Virginia that I needed to see. Revolutionary, Civil War, this man seemed to know it all.
Everything sounded so exciting. I thanked him for his time, told him he made my night, and got ready to go on with the rest of my evening. But he stopped me. “Are you here alone?” he asked. I said no because my job did send a colleague with me, but things were hard and at times I did feel alone.
He looked at me again, this time further, right into my eyes as if he was cutting into my soul. “How old are you?” he asked. “21,” I responded. It was as if he knew something was off with me. He continued to ask me questions about being away from family, how long I would be in Maryland, and how well I was holding up. I responded to all the questions as simplistic as I could.
After playing 20 questions together, he looked at me again and said he wanted to give me his wife’s cell phone number. The father of a 27-year-old daughter, he said all he could think was what if that was his daughter in my position. He told me if I needed anything or wanted a surrogate mother to talk to, all I needed to do was call his wife and she would be there for me.
We prepared to part ways again when he stopped me, again. “You’re a Christian aren’t you?” An odd question to ask, right? Well probably not, but I told you, it was like he could probe into things about me. I was already homesick, he knew this, and he stopped to invite me to church with his family for Easter.
I was completely overwhelmed. A man I had quite literally just met was inviting me to church with his family, also none of whom I knew. He told me about his church, the pastor, and what his family’s plans were, and after quite a bit of time we parted ways.
I had to excuse myself to go cry. The act of simple witness was everything I needed at the moment. Sometimes it sounds cliche to say God places right people in the right places at the right time but this was proof of it. I needed to meet George that night.
I went back and forth on whether or not I should call George’s wife. I knew I wanted to, I knew I wanted to go to church, but I was scared. I didn’t know these people. How did I know they weren’t psychos? (I got really good at making excuses in my mind)
By the time Saturday rolled around I still hadn’t called George’s wife. It became no coincidence then that the girl I was on the trip with took the rental car into Baltimore city that night. It was Saturday night and I was stranded at the hotel for who knows how long, with a chance to go to church the next day.
Taking a deep breath, I picked up the little green piece of paper I had with the number for a lady named Elizabeth on it and dialed away. After a few rings, part of me was praying she wouldn’t pick up. “Hello?” I heard in a cheerful voice. I didn’t know what to say so I just started talking. “Hi. Is this Elizabeth? Um, my name is Abigail Gilliam and I actually met your husband the other day in…” Suddenly this lady on the other end of the phone became VERY excited. She went on and on about how she was hoping I would call (and getting discouraged when I hadn’t yet), that I was more than welcome to come to church with them.
What hotel was I at? Okay cool, they would come pick me up. Would I stay for dinner with them? Of course, they were having lamb. She told me they would be there at 10:30 to pick me up and she looked forward to meeting me.
I got overwhelmed again. What did I just do? It didn’t really matter. All I knew was I was going to church with complete strangers for Easter.
George and Elizabeth met me at my hotel shortly after 10:30 Sunday morning. Two people who I once thought were strangers became acquaintances in the short ride to the church. By the time church was over, they were friends. By the time the day was over, they were like family.
Two people opened their home to me and showed me tremendous amounts of love. I met their kids and their grandkids. I talked Liberty and my future with their oldest daughter-in-law. I talked Harry Potter and other random aspects of pop culture with their daughter. Their youngest daughter-in-law taught me how to make acini de pepe.
I may have been the oddball at the dinner table to begin with, but by the time the day was over, they were joking about needing to find someone in family for me to marry so I really would be family.
For 20 years of my life, I spent every Easter with my family. Being away for the first time was much harder than I ever imagined. Yet God provided me with an amazing and loving family to be there for me in the moments I felt most alone.
George and Elizabeth (and their entire family) were incredible, God-fearing people. If I couldn’t spend Easter with my parents, there is no one else I could imagine spending Easter with. I was shown the love of Christ in ways I had never experienced in my life ever before.
My time with George and Elizabeth was undoubtedly one of my favorite moments while in Maryland. God used these people to reach me in ways He knew I needed it most, which forever amazes me every single time God works in those ways. The day was incredible and I’m so thankful to know I have a family always willing to open their doors for me whenever I go back to Maryland.