"Cristiana, I'm so glad to see you!" Taylor exclaimed when she entered the church lobby. "I've been praying for you."
"Thank you, Taylor," Cristiana said as she hugged her friend. "Yesterday evening I met my mother at the restaurant after she got off work, and we went grocery shopping. So we weren't home at the time of the explosion."
"That's wonderful!" Taylor replied. She peeked into the church sanctuary and remarked, "There must be a few hundred people here!"
"Oh, yes," Cristiana replied. "Someone mentioned on a news broadcast that the church would be providing shelter for those who have nowhere else to go."
"We'd better go inside, Cristiana. The meeting is about to start, and I need to help Aunt Alyssa organize the volunteers."
Pastor Petrovsky stood and addressed the audience. "We will start this meeting by doing the most important thing first. . . . Let us pray. Father, we thank You that You are always aware of what is going on in our lives every single moment. We know that You can bring good out of even the worst circumstances. So, we ask You, in Jesus' name, to help each of us to cry out to You for help, to trust Your love and goodness, and to do everything that You want us to do. Amen."
Taylor listened as Pastor Petrovsky explained, "The church has 100 cots set up in the basement for people to sleep on. In addition, 200 blankets have been donated. Families with small children, elderly people, and those who have health problems will sleep in the basement. Teenagers and healthy adults may sleep on the pews in the sanctuary."
Paul reported, "Many local businesses have promised to donate money and additional supplies. A sporting goods store will be delivering 60 sleeping bags and 50 air mattresses sometime this evening."
"Abby, is your group of volunteers ready to provide coffee and food for everyone?" Pastor Petrovsky asked.
"Almost," she answered. "I need help making sandwiches and unloading the food that people have brought."
Aunt Alyssa raised her hand, and Pastor Petrovsky recognized her.
She addressed the audience, "All the volunteers for the ‘We Care About Our Neighbors' program, please stand."
"Thank you all for coming tonight," Aunt Alyssa commented. "Taylor and I will meet you out in the lobby. We'll form teams to unload all the food, bring it downstairs to the basement, and sort it. By the time Pastor Petrovsky has wrapped up the meeting here in the sanctuary, we will have the food organized and be ready to start serving hot coffee."
The teens followed Aunt Alyssa, Taylor, and Abby out to the lobby. Abby pointed to two trucks that were parked outside the church. "Those trucks must be unloaded."
"I need 30 volunteers to unload the trucks," Aunt Alyssa stated. "I expect every guy and some strong young ladies to raise their hands." She paused and counted the upraised hands. "Very good, we have enough volunteers. You 30 will follow me out to the trucks. The rest of you will go downstairs with Taylor."
Taylor, Abby, and the remaining volunteers made large urns of coffee, prepared sandwiches, placed a blanket on each cot, and sorted the food, as Aunt Alyssa's team brought it downstairs to them. They also set up two coffee urns on a table in the lobby.
Even though police sirens could be heard outside, and everyone wondered what was happening, the teens concentrated on their tasks. An hour and a half later, with all the food unloaded and sorted, they began serving hot coffee and sandwiches to families, the ill, and the elderly in the basement, and to everyone else in the lobby.
"Pastor Petrovsky, I have a request," Taylor said. "Miranda, Matt, Cristiana, and a few of the other teen volunteers would like to conduct a service for the teens and adults who will be sleeping in the sanctuary, if that would be permissible."
"That's a wonderful idea!" he replied. "Does Aunt Alyssa have enough volunteers helping her downstairs?"
"Yes, she does," Taylor responded. "She gave me her approval to take eight volunteers and conduct the service, if you agreed."
"You have my blessing," Pastor Petrovsky said with a smile. "Would you mind if I attend, too?"
"We were hoping that you would, Pastor."
With Jaden playing the piano, Miranda playing the violin, Matt on the drums, and Cristiana strumming a borrowed guitar, Taylor stood at the front, holding a microphone, and began to lead the teens in worship choruses. When the people in the lobby heard the music, they returned to the sanctuary to listen.
Eventually, some of the families came upstairs for a little while to join in the singing.
God's sweet presence filled the place as people began to worship Him from their hearts.
"No matter what is going on in our city right now, Father," Taylor prayed aloud, "we want to say that we love You. We know that You are in control and that we can trust You. So, we praise You from the depths of our hearts."
A young man ran to the front of the church and knelt down, asking forgiveness for his sins. Several other young people joined him at the altar.
As the music continued, one tearful teenager approached Taylor. "Please pray for me," she whispered. "I used to believe in God and go to Sunday school, but then I got pregnant and had an abortion. I really need to find Jesus."
As Taylor put her arm around the young woman and prayed, people kept coming to the altar. Pastor Petrovsky and many who knew the Lord prayed with the people and talked with them until the early hours of the morning.
"I prayed that at least one person would accept the Lord as Savior because of the ‘We Care About Our Neighbors' program," Taylor told Aunt Alyssa the next morning as they made coffee. "But I never imagined the circumstances He would use to prepare people's hearts."
"God can accomplish His purposes in any situation when we are willing to listen," Aunt Alyssa responded.
"Hey, I just heard on my car radio that the cops caught some people who had stockpiled dangerous chemicals and bomb-making equipment," Matt announced, as he returned from picking up several more cans of coffee. "If all goes well, the authorities may allow some people to return to their homes in a few days. But it may be a week or so before everyone can go home."
"That's wonderful news!" Taylor exclaimed. "Maybe through this ordeal more people will decide they need God in their lives."