A Feast of Friendship

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Susannah May Farmer pulled out a poster and stretched on tiptoes to hold it against the telephone pole on the corner. Solly reached up and hammered a nail to hold the poster in place.

“Don’t hammer it all the way in. We have to take these down next week,” Susannah reminded him.

They stood back to admire their handiwork. The kindergarten, primary, and junior classes at church had each designed one poster. Then they had made many copies of all three. They were all great, but Susannah and Solly liked the primary one best. It had a picture of a long table with lots of people eating lots of food. Above the picture in big capital letters were the words “FREE TICKETS! COME TO THE FEAST!” Below the picture, the poster explained that 200 tickets would be given away for a Thanksgiving dinner at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Sunday afternoon, November 21, 2004, at two o’clock in the afternoon. It gave the address and two contact phone numbers. In very fancy letters, which Susannah had written, it said, “Tickets available only through Wednesday, Nov. 17.”

“Well, let’s hurry up,” Solly urged. “We have a bunch more posters to put up, and it’s cold out here!”

They walked along Main Street asking stores to put the posters in their store windows.

All that week, the members of the church were extremely busy. Some had to answer phones and give out tickets. Some had to decorate the church basement fellowship room and crowd in 300 chairs at many long tables. Susannah and her mom made wreaths, arrangements of fall leaves, and centerpieces for every table. Some were practicing music and other entertainment. Everybody else was cooking! They had been collecting food for two months, not only for the feast but for the Thanksgiving boxes they would give to each family who came.

On the Sabbath before the feast, Susannah went down to check out the fellowship room. Every long table had a white cloth on it and beautiful, many-colored centerpieces arranged down its center. Candles in the centerpieces waited to be lit for the big feast. At one end of the room, some microphones and amplifiers were set up.

Kenya came up beside Susannah. “Isn’t it gorgeous?”

“Yes. I wonder if it will be anything like this in heaven, when we eat with Jesus.”

They thought about that. “Well, not really, I guess. Heaven will be so awesome that this will seem like a dump! But it sure is beautiful for now, anyway.” Susannah sighed.

On Sunday, Susannah and her family were at the church by ten in the morning. The kitchen and fellowship room buzzed with so much activity, and the kitchen boiled over with so many cooks, that a person could think no cooking or work had been done before that day. There was always one more thing to do. Not to mention that Susannah’s four little brothers seemed more like ten little brothers!

“Luke! Johnny! You can not play fort under the tablecloths. Let’s play with the toys in the mothers’ room. Mark, you too. Matt—”

“I’m helping Mom!” Matt protested.

“OK, then,” Susannah said.

Susannah sank into a rocker in the mothers’ room to catch her breath while the little boys dumped out the toy box and made a huge mess in the middle of the floor.

Finally it was time. The guests were beginning to arrive. Susannah helped her brothers clean up their toys, washed six dirty hands—well, eight, counting her own, and went to find places to sit. Mom and Matt waved at her, and she joined them.

“What a crowd already!” she whispered to Mom.

Mom smiled and nodded, then introduced herself to a woman who sat across from them with a baby and two little toddlers. The woman said her name was Jo-Anne Thomas. Susannah watched Mrs. Thomas’s face. She seemed nervous and shy, but she talked to Mom. People always opened up to Susannah’s mom.

“May I hold the baby?” When Mrs. Thomas looked unsure, Susannah grinned and pointed to her little brothers. “Don’t worry, I have lots of experience!”

Mrs. Thomas laughed a little and gave Susannah the baby. She seemed to like having both hands to eat with.

During the dinner, they met two older men, three younger men, and another family. There was a lot of discussion about not finding jobs, or finding ones that paid so little it was hard to live. Mom sympathized, and talked about trying to raise enough food in her garden to feed her large family. When Mrs. Thomas learned that the Farmer family didn’t have a dad at home either, she seemed to open up even more.

After eating more food than some people had in a week, they all turned their chairs and listened to a program of songs, poetry, and a short talk from Pastor Lewis. When Morgan Washington played a trombone solo, Susannah passed the sleeping baby back to his mother and got up. It was time for the primaries to sing the special song they had practiced.

As they lined up, waiting to sing, Susannah looked out over the crowd. Mike was beside her, and he whispered, “What does it look like, Susannah?”

“The lights are dim, and all the candles are lit. Every face is looking our way,” she whispered back. “I see young faces and old faces and kids’ faces—brown and black and white faces . . .” Ms. Kimoto raised her hands to get their attention, and Susannah turned to Kenya on her other side and finished in a hurry. “There is one way it’s just like heaven—every face is shining like a star with happiness!”

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