Aunt Gert's Gospel Oven

by J. Grant Swank, Jr.

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While relaxing over breakfast this morning, the final day of our visit with Aunt Gert, I looked again at the attractive banner hanging from a door that leads into her basement. The banner reads simply: "BLESS OUR HOME." It's been hanging there for years. In fact, it's somewhat faded, from the sun shining on it day in and day out, but the message is still as clear and warm as when it was first hung.

I spread butter with strawberry jam on the Irish soda bread Aunt Gert had prepared for our visit from Maine. She's the best when it comes to Irish soda bread. Maybe it's because she's from Ireland and has visited family over there on several occasions. Anyway, it's delicious beyond words. So when she invited me to slide a few slices into a plastic bag for our return trip, I exclaimed "Gladly!"

You see, Aunt Gert is known for her baking excellence. But not only her culinary skills, but also for the Christian love those skills are used for. She's now 86 years old; yet it's still her delight to bake delicacies for "the old people." Then she gets behind her steering wheel to meander about that Connecticut village with her pies, cakes, and cookies. These gifts are presented especially to those who are sick or housebound. After all, those people need a friend.

I have known Aunt Gert since I first met my wife, 45+ years ago. Down through all those years, Aunt Gert has used her kitchen oven for gospel good, sharing God's gift of giving. In doing so, she's made many fast and loyal friends. Some of them have walked already through God's eternal door; others are in nursing homes; and some are her equals at keeping house and going about town.

This morning I sat back in my chair to listen to Aunt Gert and my wife discuss their latest recipe finds. Aunt Gert has stashed away so many recipes that she could print her own book. She often laughs about her collections, saying she has clipped far more recipes than she can ever bake. "Nevertheless, when I see one of those tasty recipes in a magazine, I have to cut it out and put it in my boxes." How those recipe boxes have grown over time!

Aunt Gert has lived for Jesus since she was a little girl. Her parents were Christians who introduced her early to the Lord, and her life has centered on the church. She's been the church organist since her young adult years, she was treasurer for the congregation for fourteen years, taught Sunday school classes, involved herself in missions work, cooked for countless church suppers, and has been faithful to worship week after week.

Where Aunt Gert has excelled beautifully is in her role as the Lord's hostess. Her home has been open to missionaries on furlough, visiting evangelists, gospel singers, and Christians from out of state who needed a meal and overnight lodgings. She has welcomed family driving through New England, persons new to the church, single young adults without family nearby, senior citizens who had lost spouses, and sometimes young people in need of a long-term boarding home.

These fortunate individuals have sat at her table; they've drunk her tea; they've admired her fancy table cloths with matching napkins; and they've been treated to refreshing and relaxing meals-never in a hurry, never in a rush. And they have returned a lot of grateful thanks.

Before leaving her home, one is always invited to write in her guest book. I leafed through the pages recently to note names I hadn't recalled for quite some time. There were also addresses from across the continent. And of course those friendly notes of appreciation filled up the pages.

I can attest to the fact that Aunt Gert has lived out that banner hanging in her kitchen. Her home has been particularly blessed by the Father. He's smiled upon her open heart, her willing hands to bake, and her welcoming smile to so very many knocking at her door.

"Bless Our Home." Yes, thank you, God, for answering her prayer. We have all benefited by Your graces bestowed upon Your faithful servant, giving of herself-particularly from her gospel oven.

J. Grant Swank, Jr., pastors New Hope Church in Windham, Maine.

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