Friday, February 22, 2013

The House that Coxes Built

This is the brand new house that was waiting for us.

We hadn't thought too much about where we were going to live after our first four-year term on the mission field.  We knew we'd like to find a place to stay back in the community we'd pastored in Pennsylvania before leaving for Central America.  And even though we'd been away for almost three years, we still thought of beautiful, rural Bradford County as home.  Our kids had loved it and our dearest friends were there.  But our returning to the States for a year of furlough was still over a year off.  We'd find something when the time came.  We hoped.

The Wesleyan Church in Herrickville had been Larry's first pastorate.  He was fresh out of seminary,  full of passion and seemingly limitless energy.  Therefore, it wasn't at all surprising that before long that little country church started filling up with young couples and their families.  There was one  guy in particular who stood out with his red hair and amiable personality.  He had shown up with his wife and two kids one Sunday morning in July and didn't waste any time in giving Larry a call and inviting us over for a visit.  I guess they liked us enough because they started coming regularly and soon became members.  They also became two of our closest friends.

Nioma and Dennis directed the children's ministry in those early years.
Here they are with their own two kids and a few extra. 
I don't remember if it was written in a letter or if the news came through a phone call. It was from these same friends, the Coxes, informing us that there was no need to look for a place to live when we returned stateside for that year.  They would have a place ready for us, a brand new house.  And they were going to build it.
Nioma and Dennis with Autumn a year before they started on the house

A couple of  weeks ago Larry and I were in Bradford County.  We ended the day by having supper with Nioma and Dennis in their home, an old farm house that they had renovated and moved into some years back.  We sat at one end of a very long table that runs the entire length of a very long room where hospitality is practiced freely and often.  But it was getting dark and we had a bit of a drive, so Larry looked at me and said, "What do you say?"  I'm not sure where that expression comes from or why he uses it,  but that's the cue to start gathering our things and say our goodbyes.  

Nioma handed me a disc as Dennis was packing up a bag of venison to send home with us. She'd  been busy transferring their old videos over onto DVD and had decided to make two copies of this particular tape, one for them and one for us.  It was labeled, Building Marcy's and Larry's House.  "The quality's not the best," she warned me. "But I thought you might like to have a copy."

Dennis and Nioma in Honduras

Dennis with our neighborhood children in Honduras

A couple of nights later I carefully set it into the tray of our DVD player and then sat back to watch a story that had been written for us exactly twenty-five years ago.  It begins in the spring of one year and ends in the summer of the next.  During the course of two hours, what starts out as a bit of cleared land grows into a lovely two-story structure, a home.  And with each scene, from the slab being poured, the walls being raised, the roof being built, electricity being run and sheet rock going up, individuals come and go.  Some are strangers, but most are not, people who were a part of our lives back then, all contributing in some way to the house that was being built for us.

No matter where we've lived, Nioma and Dennis have been there.
This was taken in 1999 during our "Alabama" years.

The last fifteen or twenty minutes are especially poignant.  Larry's dad had traveled over from Western New York to spend a few days on the house that would soon be home to his oldest son and family and Nioma films him several times working on the interior.  A few weeks later my father is there in one of his favorite caps and familiar suspenders hauling a large roll of carpet up the stairs.  My mother's voice suddenly comes from the bottom of the steps and for a few short seconds  the camera catches her before she goes out the door.  I found myself wishing she had stayed a bit longer. 

The last scene of the story is my favorite part of all.  The house is finished,  waiting and ready for the travel-weary family that is on its way to take up residence there.  Nioma is by herself.  The place seems oddly quiet after the months of  hammers and saws and voices calling out to each other. She begins to move from room to room, now filled with furniture,  and tells the story of where each piece came from.  The beds, dressers and tables, couches and chairs, pictures on the walls and even the nicknacks on the shelves, all provided by our families and close friends who have been anticipating our coming back home for a time.  And then hearing the sound of a car, she moves with her camera to the large sliding glass doors overlooking the balcony just in time to see a station wagon slowly making its way up the dirt road towards the house.  In anticipation she moves back to the stairway and waits.  Moments later the sound of the door opening below can be heard and she calls out a welcome as the heads of children suddenly appear at the top of the steps, eyes wide, curious, anxious to take it all in.  And then the tape runs out.

Dennis and Nioma with Autumn, Fawn and me before we returned to Honduras
I sat there for awhile afterwards thinking about what had gone into making that house.  I must have known back then all that had taken place to have it ready for us.  But as time goes by,  there's a tendency to get caught up in the happenings of now and to forget what has come before.  I hadn't remembered to what extent our friends had worked and sacrificed to have a home ready for us.  An old video tape from a quarter century ago reminded me of that, and I feel humbled and grateful and blessed all over again at the gift. 
After our return to Central America, Nioma and Dennis sold their old place and moved into our house.  That was fine, we were no longer there to enjoy it.  A few years later they bought and remodeled that old farm house I mentioned earlier and that's where they've been ever since.  But things are soon to change.  Dennis will be retiring in a few months and there's talk of selling this last place and  spending more time with their kids out of state.  But more than anything, they're anticipating the adventures that God still has ahead for them.  They've always enjoyed that, living a good adventure.  And besides that, the bigger the challenge, the better.  I suppose that's why they built us that house. 

This was taken a few years ago at Fawn's wedding.
It's hard to imagine greater friends than these, the best gift of all!


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love these people. They are the epidome of godly, selfless people. May we continue to strive to be a fraction of the godfearing people my godparents are.