We hosted a cookout at our house on Labor Day, Sept. 3, 2012, as the next event in Grad IV’s New Student Outreach (NSO) for that fall. The previous two years, 12-15 students had come to this cookout, but just in case more came this time, we prepared food for about 20 people. The students, however, just kept coming and coming until there were over 35 of us!
But God sent extra food, enough for everyone, though we didn’t know in advance that any of it was coming. Some friends dropped off a big batch of corn muffins on their way over to a different event. Our faculty advisers brought plenty of hamburger to cook, left over from a weekend church retreat. And the Grad IV couple who’d gotten married two weeks earlier brought cases of soda from their reception. “It’s like the loaves and fishes all over again!” we marveled. This event helped draw more students into the group for the coming year.
The University of Michigan doctors had felt that Priscilla could return to physical therapy at least for “gait training,” to make walking smoother and safer, even though she still shouldn’t work her muscles hard without a diagnosis. So a few days after our cookout she saw the therapist again, who told her that using a cane would really help. We’d already planned to go out that Saturday to look for furniture for a student who’d agreed to host a Bible study in her apartment and had asked for Priscilla’s help in getting the place ready. Priscilla had seen signs for an estate sale and wanted to stop there to look for a cane on the way to the thrift stores we’d be visiting.
“You’re a day late,” they told her at the sale. “We did have some canes, but they all went yesterday.” “I’m not too late,” Priscilla replied. “I know God has a cane for me today.”
At the first thrift store we went initially to the furniture department to look around. But Priscilla also asked about canes and was told to try the clothing department. When she inquired there, the clerk replied, “Yes, we have canes,” and disappeared for a moment behind a door. She emerged with a sleek, stylish black cane that was just what Priscilla had been hoping for. “How much is it?” she asked. “Oh, it’s free,” the clerk responded. “We have a medical lending closet and all we ask is that you return it when you’re finished with it.”
Knowing that this thrift store was run by a Christian charity, and that the cane was therefore ultimately a gift from her Heavenly Father, Priscilla burst into tears and had to go into the ladies room to recover. I told the clerk the whole story. “God really did have a cane for her today,” she said. Then she added, “Just a minute,” and disappeared behind the door again, coming out with another cane just as Priscilla returned. This one was decorated in a delicate red rose pattern. “For going out dressed up,” she explained.
Priscilla had been discharged from the hospital ten days earlier, and since then we’d been asking ourselves what we could do to speed up the pursuit of her diagnosis. Should we call the specialized clinic she’d been referred to and ask to be notified of any cancellations in case she could get in earlier? Should we contact her doctor there and ask her to order in advance any tests she was planning to do, so she’d already have the results when she saw Priscilla? But now we decided we were having such a happy day that maybe we didn’t want to push for a diagnosis after all. Maybe just living our lives would work just fine for the time being—especially since Priscilla’s gait was rapidly improving, and now she had canes.
We visited two other thrift stores and by the end of our excursion we’d found a cream and sugar set, lamps, and end tables to help the student entertain the Bible study group she’d be hosting. By that evening we’d helped her put everything in place. Priscilla loved using her skill and training in interior decorating to help students fix up their apartments, and she’d found things that perfectly suited the colors and design of the furnishings that were already there.
But the student felt we still needed more seating. Between her living room furniture and other chairs that could be brought in from the desk, kitchen table, etc., there were seats for eight people. Only seven had said they’d be attending the group (including ourselves). But our hostess was certain that we’d have twelve before the year was over. So we later got some lightweight folding chairs that she kept in her closet, for when that time came.
NSO concluded the next Friday with an evening of snacks, games, and a campfire at a renovated barn a few miles south of campus. Twenty-five students joined us for the event. Priscilla, now walking better than she had in months, prepared and served all the refreshments. Since she was the party hostess, she used the cane with the red roses.