When a single pebble is thrown into a quiet lake, a delicate ripple affect results– widening further and further into ever-growing circles that ultimately reach far, far beyond the realm of the little stone itself.
In life, we rarely recognize how– in exactly the same way– a seemingly insignificant act of obedience to God could possibly have such widespread, far-reaching affects. We’ve heard it said that God requires obedience, not greatness– and yet still, that seems too easy for us. Far too often we totally miss the far-reaching impact of the “little things” He calls us to, distracted in our search for the big, really significant events we seem compelled to think should define our calling.
This morning we learned that an old friend, Peg Hardesty– a sweet, gentle-spirited, unassuming widow living in a small farmhouse in rural upstate New York– ran into the arms of Jesus last night at the age of 96. Probably more than any other woman I know, Peg personified the beauty of that tiny pebble, and even now, the affects of her obedience to God are still going out in wider and wider, far-reaching circles. I’m amazed to think of how different my life would have been, had it not been for Peg. And there are literally hundreds of others who could say that like me.
I don’t know much about her story before 1969, but in the beginning of that year, Peg–a middle-aged widow at the time– was healed of debilitating arthritis while listening to the first radio broadcast of CBN Radio Northeast. Her attention captured, Peg contined to tune in to announcer Scott Ross on the Christian radio station, until one day she called in on a whim to let him know that she had a big, empty barn on her property in Freeville, close to Ithaca, N.Y. that he was welcome to.
It seemed ludicrous at the time. Peg had no plans in mind for it, and neither did Scott. But soon after Peg gave the barn away, in the early ’70’s it gradually began to fill with recovering drug addicts, “Jesus Freaks,” and college students from nearby Ithaca College and Cornell University– those that Scott was reaching out to on his radio program– as this ragged group of baby Christians worked hard together to convert the old barn slowly into a place they named “Love Inn.”
From her farmhouse across the driveway, Peg watched patiently and encouragingly as these ragamuffin young people came and went, and the old barn was gradually converted first into a place where some of these young people could live, with the installation of a huge kitchen and dining area where the cow stalls used to be, then a bookstore, a venue for weekend concerts of contemporary Christian music, a recording studio, a coffeehouse for evangelism, then a church, eventually followed by the addition of a Christian school that’s there to this day.
Peg worked along with the young people, helping with the gardens, and opening her own home as a place where the young women could live, providing quiet, steady support, wisdom and encouragement.
And that’s about where Dan and I came into the picture. By 1973, Dan and I were both students at a Bible college about an hour away, and each of us had driven to the Love Inn in separate cars, with our individual friends, to attend a weekend concert by Children of the Day and Karen Lafferty.
I don’t need to know what the hold up was, but the concert was very late getting started. As we waited, I found a seat on a sawed-off log by the huge stone fireplace downstairs in The Barn, just off the big kitchen. Providentially (though Dan claims it was intentional) Dan sat beside me on another big log, and for the first time, we talked together for a long, long time. I was smitten– there in The Barn. We sat in different places for the concert, and drove back in our separate cars. But my life was wrecked– from that point, I couldn’t eat, sleep, study, concentrate, until I finally prayed that God would either remove my deep attraction to him, or bring Dan into my life as my husband.
The next year, Dan and I were married, and for the next several years we lived in New York, then Pennsylvania as Dan pastored and our family grew with the addition of three beautiful children.
By the early 1980’s, we moved to Freeville and became part of the church at the Barn, which had changed from “Love Inn” to “Covenant Love Community” as these young people matured in their faith, and like us, married and began raising young families.
As a young mother adjusting to this new environment, I was grateful for the friendship with which Peg Hardesty reached out to me. Knowing I was at home with toddlers, without a car and feeling confined, Peg began to come over regularly and drive me to town with her for grocery shopping and errands, spending those hours together to talk, encourage, help me, and pray with me.
Those were good years. The Barn had grown into a sizable church and school, with a strong emphasis on the Arts– theater, dance, and music– which was influenced, I’m sure, by our head pastor Ted Sandquist, a gifted songwriter who continually introduced worship music that illuminated the Scriptures to us all. Music concerts had expanded to also include live theater performances, and every summer we held a “Celebration” gathering for several days duration, where speakers preached, music groups performed, everyone in mixed groups of families and friends all danced together as worship songs were choreographed into folkdances by Ted’s wife Dawn. And then, of course, we all enjoyed huge, barbequed meals together.
We attended weddings in the Barn, recorded Ted’s ‘Song of Life’ music in the studio there, and formed close friendships. Our children spent their formative years cutting their spiritual teeth on Ted’s Scripture songs. They reaped great benefits from the excellent quality of art and music at the church and the school they attended in the Barn. Our son was baptised in the rock-covered baptism tank installed downstairs in the Barn.
Years have gone by since then, but we will never lose the strong foundations we gained during our time there. There are many, many others who like us have gone out from there and taken with them so many of the principles and experiences that have shaped who we are and how we relate to others. I am more grateful than I can ever express that our children had that chapter in their lives during their formative years!
God doesn’t call us to greatness, He calls us to obedience. I believe in God’s Sovereighty. I believe that there is no “Plan B,” and that God accomplishes His own purposes on the earth, yet still, He works through people. God’s call for Peg Hardesty was for her to give away her barn. If God hadn’t used Peg, He would have used someone else, but His purpose still would have been fulfilled. In a sense, there’s no point in wondering how different life would have been if Peg had not obeyed God in such a simple, seemingly insignificant, yet impacting act.
But she did. And I’m eternally grateful that she did.
Peg…. we look forward to singing Ted’s songs with you at the feet of Jesus! Watch for us!
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