This Sunday, I decided to surprise my friend Sally-Lodge by showing up at her church for worship totally unannounced. Sally-Lodge is the pastor of a small church in Poplarville, MS. It's about an hour north-west of Gulfport, which basically puts the town in the beginning of the middle of nowhere Mississippi.
It was a total adventure for little miss suburbs over here.
First, I googled the church name. Of course they have no website. Then I went to the PC(USA) website to do a search on the church. It came up when I searched by town name and gave me an address. I google-mapped that address and set off on the road. I figured that a southern, country church service couldn't start before 10 am, so I thought I'd just drive out of town and bring some books and then I'd be ready to sit and wait a while.
It was a beautiful drive. Cow farm after cow farm. The weather in south Mississippi has been incredible this May- still with no heat, no bugs, no humidity. Most days this month, I've been concerned that the apocalypse is upon us, because weather like this just doesn't happen here in May. But on this Sunday, I loved it. When old people talk about going for a Sunday drive, I think this is the weather they have in mind. That was the drive they have in mind.
So, I wasn't paying much attention to the specifics of the directions and therefore wasn't worried when I rolled up on to a golf course. Then, I looked and discovered that I'd hit the last turn on the directions. The address for the church on the PC(USA) website was some one's home on a golf course. I wasn't near anything resembling a town or a church or Sally-Lodge. I was so bummed.
I got back on the road and stumbled upon a mom and pop gas station. They'd never heard of the particular church that I was seeking, but could list off a number of places where a nice girl like me could worship this fine Sunday.
Completely disappointed that my fun surprise was spoiled, I went on my way. I decided to take a different route home so that I would at least enjoy a new drive. Then I realized that I was going to drive right by downtown Poplarville. The church was supposed to be in Poplarville. I could try one more time. It was only 10:30 and there was still a chance that the service didn't start until 11.
I drove into town thinking, how many churches can there be in a tiny, start of the middle of nowhere Mississippi town?
It's the deep south. There are nine million churches for every 127 people. I saw a big one, and old one, a brick one, a stick one, a blue one, a red one, a green one, a cream one. Dr. Seuss would've loved this town. But no Presbyterian one. So, I gave up all over again and started winding my way out of the "downtown" area when I saw one of those little "Presbyterian Church this way" signs. I turned and drove one block and found the phantom Sally-Lodge church!!!!
I was so thrilled! Not only at my master bird-dogging skills or because the service DID start at 11, so I still had 15 minutes to spare, but because I was finally (FINALLY) after almost two years, going to be at Sally-Lodge's church.
It was awesome. There's nothing like seeing someone you love and respect do one of the things they do best. Watching her interact with her congregation was such a joy/learning experience. And the small group was so welcoming to me- this stranger from a foreign land.
AND! They had free food. One of my favorite things in the whole world is stumbling upon free food. There was a scheduled church picnic after the service. Church picnics have to be one of my favorite things about living in the deep south. Picnics, hot sauce, and sweet tea. And adventures in Poplarville. I'll add that to the list, now.