A Bunch of Company

By Linda Porter Carlyle

 Hannah Maria Estevez wondered why Papa was driving so slowly. It seemed to be taking forever to get to church. Butterflies danced in Hannah’s stomach. She couldn’t quite decide if she was nervous or excited.

Finally, Papa pulled into the church parking lot. Only a few other cars were parked there already. It looked strange. Hannah wasn’t used to arriving at church so early. In fact, usually they were almost late because Baby Paulo’s diaper always needed changing at the last minute. Or he spit up on his clothes, and they needed changing. But this morning was different. Hannah and Papa were at church early because they had a job to do. Mama was coming later with Baby Paulo.

Hannah and Papa walked together across the lot. The summer sunshine warmed Hannah’s face and arms. They climbed the steps and went into the cool church.

Mrs. Branscom hurried up. “Here are this morning’s bulletins,” she said. “Happy Sabbath!”

“Thank you,” Papa said as Mrs. Branscom hurried off. Then he smiled at Hannah. “You look beautiful,” he said softly.

Hannah smiled back. She took a deep breath and smoothed her skirt. Usually she didn’t like talking to strangers. She never knew what to say. But today was different. She knew exactly what she was supposed to say. She was supposed to welcome people to church. And best of all, Mama had said she could invite some visitors home for lunch.

Hannah looked out through the open church door. No one was coming yet. She thought about the lunch Mama had prepared. Her special refried beans. Hannah’s favorite Spanish rice. Cheese enchiladas. And Papa’s favorite desert—fresh peach cobbler. Hannah’s mouth watered.

“Good morning. Welcome to our church,” Papa said. He shook hands with a tall blond man and a short blond woman. Hannah had never seen them before. Both the woman and the man held a chubby blond baby. The babies looked just alike. They even clutched tiny matching stuffed bears.

“Are your babies twins?” Hannah asked softly.

“Yes,” the woman answered. “They’re six months old.”

“They’re so cute!” Hannah said. She gave the woman a bulletin. “Would you like to come to our house for lunch?”

The woman glanced at her husband.

He smiled and nodded.

“We’d love to come!” the woman said. “We’re from California, and we’re on our way up to Washington State. It would be really nice to have a home-cooked meal after church instead of just dragging the babies back to our motel.”

“I have a baby brother too,” Hannah said. “My mother will like to see your babies.”

“Well, thank you!” the blond woman said, shifting the baby she was holding from one arm to the other. “We’ll just follow you home in our car after church.”

Papa shook hands with everyone who came in the door. Sometimes Hannah shook hands too. Sometimes she just smiled and said, “Happy Sabbath!” and handed bulletins to the church members. She knew them all.

Then an older man with a cane slowly made his way up the steps. “Welcome to our church!” Hannah said to him as he came in the door.

The man took the bulletin and smiled down at Hannah.

“Would you like to come to our house for lunch?” Hannah asked.

The man looked startled.

Papa leaned over and shook his hand. “Yes. Please do come. We would love to have you.”

A smile spread over the man’s face. “Thank you,” he said. “I will.”

Hannah grinned at Papa. It was fun inviting people for lunch.

More church members, old friends, came through the door. Mrs. Robinson climbed the steps, holding onto the arm of a younger woman. “Hannah!” she exclaimed kissing Hannah on the cheek. “This is my daughter Ellen. She’s visiting me for a couple of weeks. I’m so happy to have her here!”

Hannah gave Mrs. Robinson a bulletin and a hug. Mrs. Robinson was one of her favorite people. “Would you like to come to our house for lunch today?” she asked.

Mrs. Robinson turned to her daughter. “You don’t know how lucky you are. Hannah’s mother is one of our church’s best cooks,” she said.

Ellen grinned at Hannah. “In that case, I’ll look forward to it.” She leaned closer. “My mother has made me do all the cooking since I got here. I need a break!” she whispered loudly.

Mrs. Robinson poked her daughter, and they both laughed. Papa and Hannah laughed too.

Papa looked at his watch. “It’s almost time for Sabbath School to begin,” he said. “Do you want to go to your class or stay here a little while longer and welcome the late-comers?”

“I want to stay here,” Hannah answered. “There might be some more visitors to invite to lunch!”

Papa looked startled. “I don’t think Mama intended for you to invite every visitor home for lunch today!” he said. “How many people have you invited already?”

“I don’t know,” Hannah admitted. “But Mama made a lot of food. Did I do something wrong?” she asked anxiously.

Papa smiled. “No,” he said. “You’re doing just fine.”

 

How many people did Hannah invite to lunch? Did she invite too many? It probably would have been better to agree on a number first, but I’m sure things worked out OK. How do you think Jesus felt about Hannah’s invitations? How was inviting visitors serving Jesus?—Mrs. Sox

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