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Tuesday Tea

Lucretia Sparks had developed the reputation as the most hospitable lady of the First Baptist Church. Widowed for 15 years, she kept her Elm St. mansion in perfect condition--both outside and inside--by employing a full-time maintenance man, who also served as her gardener and mowed her lawn, and a cleaning lady. Lucretia, however, did her own cooking and entertaining.

Her Tuesday Tea was famous. Anyone who was anybody at First Baptist Church attended Lucretia's Tuesday Tea. Or, maybe it should be said, if you didn't attend Tuesday Tea, you weren't anybody.

Conversation caught everyone up on the gossip on at church and in the personal lives of the members. Engagements were announced, weddings analyzed, and marriages evaluated. The two hours spent at Lucretia's house were the most exciting two hours of the week.

I wonder what the talk is today. Let's find out. Sh, Harriet Smigs is speaking.

"Why can't we find more missionaries is just beyond me. It seems as if no one wants to be a missionary these days. What do you think are the reasons, Cybele dear?"

Cybele finished chewing her small bite of cheesecake, sipped Lucretia's peach punch, tapped her lips gently with a napkin of Ghent lace and responded sweetly . . .as always, "I think people just aren't willing to suffer like the missionaries of the past. Six months on a steamer each way, threats from wild savages, tropical diseases--I think people today are too afraid to go to the mission field."

"Now, now," Harriet hurried to comment, "It couldn't be that reason. The Jones family were here last week on their way to Bermuda. I think they were very willing to suffer for the cause on that little island two hours from New York. They say sand is everywhere!"

"Well, I think people don't go into missions because of who you have to work with. Have you noticed the ones that have come through our church in the past three years? Not a one has a degree from an Ivy League school. All went to some Christian college somewhere--usually in the Midwest or in the South. I think it would be hard having to work with people like that all the time," Murrieta Slopes was a long-time member of the Tuesday Tea and felt quite confident others would chime in with their agreements to what she said, and she was right. Myrtle Phelps picked up the thread and moved it on further . . . "You're right, as usual, Murrieta," Myrtle didn't pause at all before saying, "What I think is so urgent is that now we not only have the problem of a lack of missionaries, we have single men applying."

"No!" Several ladies chorused their horror at the suggestion. Some couldn't say anything because they were still swallowing Lucretia's cheesecake or punch, but from their expressions you could tell they were equally affected by Myrtle's revelation.

Myrtle hadn't paused to notice their response. "Pastor said three single men have approached him recently about their future mission work"

"Haven't they read it isn't good for a man to be alone?" Telicia Faulkner liked to quote Scriptures and she had quite a battery of them memorized.

Myrtle paused ever so slightly to incorporate Telicia's comment. "Pastor used that verse with each one, and two dropped the topic at once, but one was impudent enough to mention Paul's example!"

Murrieta immediately gave her final judgment on this young man, "From that attitude, you can see he isn't fit to be a missionary" All agreed.

Myrtle decided it was time to change from narrative to explication: "I agree fully with Pastor's philosophy that if married missionary men are falling right and left to adultery, how can we expect a single man to withstand the temptation?"

Cindy, a new member of the Tea and a bit hesitant to speak, managed a question that she felt was safe: "Why do the men commit adultery?" Murrieta saw this as another chance to share her valued opinion, "They are attracted to women there, and pursue them, and then the worst results--they divorce their wives and marry the girlfriend."

Cindy thought she dared to ask one more question, "What would happen if we sent a single man?"

Murrieta was pleased to be able to hit a double play. She began, "Why, the single man would be attracted to a woman there and . . . ," she paused . . . no one had ever remembered Murrieta pausing before.

Cindy thought she would help out . . ."and might marry the woman he was attracted to?"

Murrieta thought for a moment and then saw her way clear, "Yes, Cindy, my love, and that would be tragic. We couldn't have our single men going to the field and marrying anyone there."

Telicia thought it was time for another Bible verse, so she said, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." While she sat back and beamed at her timing, she saw the other ladies nodding gravely.

Myrtle had been a bit worried that the others might have forgotten this was her topic, and she picked up her thought and continued, "Pastor says missionaries are often in counseling situations and who heard of a single man counseling a married couple? And how could he counsel a woman?"

Cindy wondered out loud, "Could he counsel men?"

Murrieta loved how she could see things so clearly, "If the men are doing what scripture says and are marrying, the only help a single man would need is how to marry, and how would a single missionary be able to help in that way. Of course, if the married men needed counsel, they would ask a married counselor!"

Myrtle really didn't like to be interrupted, so she hurriedly pulled everyone's attention back to herself. "I like Pastor's biblical stance. He won't accept any single men as missionary candidates at our church. Look at the great missionaries: Hudson Taylor was married; James Fraser was married. Who do these young men think they are to go to the mission field single when we have such great examples to follow?" She paused, a rare occurrence, to let the impact of her words fall on the group. Cindy looked around at the circle to see whether anyone would respond to the obvious error in Myrtle's relation of history. And then she ventured, "I thought both Taylor and Fraser went to the field single and then married there?"

Murrieta was beginning to regret Cindy's presence at the group and made a mental note to tell Lucretia not to invite this young lady again. "That's the point we've been trying to say and we are quite agree upon, dearie, the men were married."

Myrtle saw there was no hope of reviving her topic, so she stepped away to get more punch. Cindy decided not to make any more comments and moved to a group of younger women gathered around the piano. Murrieta glided over to the door happy that she had brought depth and clarity to the group once again. Lucretia announced, "Ladies, next week the theme is French Romantic. I have the most delightful morning planned!"

Tuesday Tea

Missionary Connection

Bunkbed Banter

Five-mile Run

A Car for a Missionary

Judah's Story