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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

It Pays to Serve

By Dan Van Veen
Sept. 14, 2014

Two men walked into a Lincoln, Neb., Cracker Barrel in early January for lunch and requested to be waited on by the restaurant’s “grumpiest” server.

The hostess told the customers — one a middle-aged man, the other older — that the restaurant didn’t have any grumpy servers. She seated them instead at a table staffed by the eatery’s most cheerful server, 18-year-old Abigail Sailors.

The smiling, bubbly Abigail worked for the home-cooking chain over Christmas break, just after finishing her first semester at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, N.D. Abigail’s warm personality stood out to her co-workers and restaurant patrons.

The customers placed their orders with Abigail, then began a series of conversations with her as she checked back with them. They learned that Abigail paid her own way for the first semester but had run out of money. She hoped to save enough wages and tips, and qualify for financial aid, in order to return to Trinity in the fall.

The men, who told of their faith, inquired how Abigail kept such a sunny disposition in light of the shortfall of educational funds.

Abigail explained that much more had happened to her than a lack of money. When Abigail was 7 months old, her mother suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident near St. Joseph, Mo., and was no longer able to care for her five children.

The children were divided among three foster homes. The siblings were abused frequently, with one foster father still in prison for his crimes against the children.

When Abigail and two siblings were placed back with a male relative it didn’t get any better. He was arrested for abusing them as well.

But nine years ago, the nightmare childhood ended. John and Susi Sailors of Falls City, Neb., were leading the youth group at Good News Assembly of God at the time (they now attend Grace Church in nearby Rock Port, Mo., where Susi is associate pastor).

The Sailors had been neighbors to the children in Falls City prior to the accident. With their five children grown, John and Susi took a step of faith and became foster parents to all five of the children: Shelby, Madison, Joshua, Sydnie and Abigail — the youngest at 10 years old.

John admits it took a while for the girls to warm up to him due to their past abuse, but over time, trust was earned and a loving relationship established.

“When they first came to live with us, the kids were like empty shells, but now they’re completely different — happy and outgoing,” John says, crediting God for the transformation.

As she neared adulthood Abigail changed her surname.

“The way they treated us, you would never be able to tell that we weren’t their children,” Abigail says. “I’ve been blessed by God to be there.”

No matter what foster home they were in, Abigail and her siblings always went to church — even if they had to walk on their own.

“We went to Sunday School, and the teachers told me they loved me, and they showed that love,” Abigail remembers. “They also told me Jesus loved me. I knew Someone higher than I has faith in me and loves me unconditionally.”

As she grew to become a young woman, Abigail felt God leading her to attend a Christian college to improve her relationship with Him. She settled on Trinity, choosing to major in youth ministry with a minor in psychology.

Although Abigail didn’t share all her life details that day with the two customers passing through, she shared enough to leave them marveling.

One of the men told her that he was a Trinity alum and began filling out a check. He asked a confused Abigail how to spell her name, then handed her a check made out to Trinity Bible College. It was for $5,000 — to pay for Abigail’s next semester of school. He wrote another check for $1,000 to cover whatever expenses she might have.

“I just started crying. I couldn’t believe it,” Abigail says.

To top it all off, the men left Abigail a $100 tip, which she split with another server. Although Abigail knows her benefactor’s name, she is respecting his privacy.

Because of the donor’s generosity, Abigail returned to TBC in the spring for a second semester rather than waiting until this fall.

“I knew God wanted me here, so this whole experience has helped me feel really relieved that what I’ve been listening to all this time was the right voice, not just me,” Abigail says.

When she returned to TBC earlier this year, Abigail was a redshirt player on the women’s basketball team. Women’s basketball coach Rachael Nowell, a Trinity graduate in her fifth year leading the team, found Abigail to be a good influence.

“She has a servant’s heart, and that influences everything she does,” Nowell says. “It’s a blessing to see how God has given Abigail an opportunity to impact so many more people than she imagined.”

The lunchtime encounter is seared in Abigail’s memory.

“I’m never going to forget that day — the two strangers, God, or that they believed in me,” Abigail says. “No words would ever convey how thankful I am.”

Abigail believes the experience is an answer to her childhood prayers.

“I knew God never left my side, never loved me any less, never wanted anything bad for me, but there are certain sicknesses in this world and people have choices to make,” Abigail says. “But I kept hoping, believing, praying that someday God would be able to turn all the negatives I’ve experienced into something that can help other people.

“God is going to continue to open doors for me, be there for me, and definitely has a plan for me!”

DAN VAN VEEN is editor of AG News.


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