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The Tablecloth


The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry,
to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited
about the opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down 
and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to 
have their first service on Christmas Eve. 

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc. and
on Dec. 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On Dec. 19 a
terrible tempest-a driving rainstorm-hit the area and lasted for two
days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank 
when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster 
about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the wall of the sanctuary just behind 
the pulpit, beginning about head high. The pastor cleaned up the mess on 
the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas 
Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business 
was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. 

One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted 
tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right 
in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the 
front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church. By this time it 
had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction 
was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait 
in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew 
and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., 
to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. 

The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered 
up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the 
center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Pastor," she asked, "where did 
you get that tablecloth?" The pastor explained. The woman asked him to 
check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted 
into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she 
had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria. 

The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten 
the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her 
husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was 
forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She 
was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again. 
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep
it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was
the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and
was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job. 

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost 
full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the 
pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they 
would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the 
neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the 
pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got 
the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that 
his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war 
and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike? 

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee
for her safety, and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested 
and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 
35 years in between. The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take 
him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house 
where the pastor had taken he woman three days earlier. He helped the 
man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked 
on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.


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