“We will be there, Pastor,” Tim responded, phone to his ear.
“Do you know how much it will cost you?” asked the man on the other end.
“I don’t even know how I’m going to get there so, no, I don’t know how much it will cost me.”
Hanging up the phone, he tucked it back into his shirt pocket and repositioned himself in the horse’s saddle. He glanced over at Lynn with a sheepish grin.
“It really is hilarious how we just agreed to do Vacation Bible School several states away and we have zero idea how we can pull it off,” Lynn exclaimed. “Five horses, no truck, no trailer, no money, and one week away.”
“It’s what God has been doing this whole time, Lynnie,” Tim reminded her. “Telling us to do things that feel totally impossible. He told us to do it, so He’s the One responsible to make it happen.”
The sun was setting over the North Carolina horizon to their backs as the couple rode into the city of Asheville. It was nearing time for them to settle down for the evening and they would need to begin looking for an adequate place soon. Their favorite roadside stay was an announcer’s booth in the local rodeogrounds. They trotted up the road a bit farther, passing a church on the right.
“I wonder why there are so many cars at a Baptist church on a Saturday night,” Lynn thought aloud.
“We’re going back,” Tim stated, turning his horse around. “God just spoke to my heart to go ask someone in there.”
“Okie dokie,” Lynn said cheerfully, following his lead. She had grown used to the swift changes of pace by now. They pulled up to the middle of the church’s drive and both dismounted. He handed her his reins.
“Since there isn’t a place to tie them up here, I’ll just run inside and ask someone really quickly.”
He cleared the front doorway and came to another set of doors. Clearing the second opening, he found himself in a large room staring at the backs of a crowd of people. A Rabbi stood at the front of the room wearing his kippot along with most every man in the room. Some of the men and women turned at the sound of the door and Tim quickly jerked his cowboy hat off his head and clutched it to his chest.
“Hey, cowboy!” the Rabbi yelled from the front, flashing him a big smile. “Jews and cowboys have one thing in common.”
“What’s that?” Tim asked.
“We wear our hat in church.” The room let out a collective chuckle.
“Come in, come in! Come on down front, here,” the Rabbi said, motioning Tim. “My name is Rabbi Andy and you have just entered into a Messianic Jewish Synagogue worship service.”
Tim smiled widely and shook his hand.
“What’s your name?” the short, bearded man asked.
Tim introduced himself to the room of nearly thirty adults with several children interspersed. Rabbi Andy prompted him to share more of his story with the crowd and he took a seat on the stage, completely intrigued by the unexpected entrance of the unlikely stranger. Thirty minutes later after several questions, Tim explained that he should probably go check on his wife outside with the horses.
“Your turn, sweetheart,” Tim said, bounding down the steps towards her.
“Well goodness, I was about to ride a horse through the front door,” she remarked. “My turn for what?”
“Go on in and you’ll see,” he said, smiling at her smugly. She rolled her eyes and walked slowly for the door, giving him disapproving looks for not explaining further.
Opening the second set of doors, Lynn was greeted by Rabbi Andy’s loud exclamation. “Okay! We have heard his side, now let’s hear hers and see if they tell the same story!” The room erupted in laughter as the guests continued eating the dinner they had just broken into. She smiled nervously as he beckoned her down front, a woman handing her a plate of food along the way. She had never been more uncomfortable in her life, having no idea exactly how her husband had told any part of their story.
Several minutes later Tim joined them inside, having found a place to tie up the horses nearby. The group invited them to join in dinner and the couple sat down at the end of the long, folded tables across from a middle-aged couple. They struck up conversation and the other couple was very intrigued to hear more stories about their travels.
“How long are you going to be in Asheville?” asked the man.
“I’m not sure,” Tim answered, putting a large bite of rotisserie chicken in his mouth.
“Stay right here,” he said, excusing himself from the table and hurrying out the door with his wife. Tim and Lynn looked at each other and continued to eat the scrumptious dinner that their stomachs had been craving.
Over half an hour later, the couple returned. Without a word, the man held out his hand, revealing a set of truck keys.
“I can’t take that!” his refusal muffled through the whole cookie in his cheek.
“Oh, yes you can,” the man insisted, jingling the keys. “It’s a brand new pick-up, not even 6,000 miles on it. It’s an extra vehicle for us and we don’t really use it that much. You guys take it. You’re going to need it.”
His words carried an eerie undertone. As though he already knew something they hadn’t told him.
“We don’t want to mess up a brand new pick-up truck,” Tim said.
“Listen, we’ve got two dogs and they ride in the back all the time. There is dog hair everywhere. You aren’t going to mess it up.” He rested the keys on the table between their two plates.
After mingling with more of the attendants, Tim and Lynn rose to throw away their trash. A man in his late forties approached them near the garbage can.
“Pleased to meet you folks. My name is Carl,” he greeted, extending a handshake. “I’m a deacon over at another nearby Baptist church, and I was wondering if you would be interested in coming tomorrow morning to speak to my Sunday school class.”
They agreed. Rabbi Andy slapped an envelope in Tim’s hand on their way out the door–a collection of $600 spontaneously gathered by the congregation at the end of the service.
The following morning the horsemen spoke to Carl’s Sunday school class at one of the largest Baptist churches in North Carolina.
“We need to talk to the pastor,” Carl urged them as the class dismissed to head into the main worship service. “We need you guys to speak to the church.”
Carl led the couple upstairs to the pastor’s office. They entered through the fancy double doors and quickly wondered if this might be a bit more suitable for a president. The walls were lined with pure mahogany and their feet stood atop a marble floor. His desk was large and prominent with intricate, golden knobs. The man seemed very preoccupied with the service about to begin and others bustled in and out, relaying messages and conducting preparations.
“I tell you what,” the pastor said to Tim as Carl concluded his introduction. “You guys set up a table outside of the sanctuary. That way you will have a way that you can tell people about your ministry.”
Tim obliged him for his courtesy and the three of them headed back down to the main lobby where Carl set up a table. The couple tossed a few cards on it and then headed into the main auditorium to await the start of the service. The large room easily accommodated several thousand people with its grandiose balcony Carl explained that they held three services on Sunday mornings, clearly evident by the large room that easily accommodated several thousand and sported a grandiose, multi-sectional balcony.
Tim noticed the pastor walk through the side door and then abruptly halt, standing still for several moments all alone. He leaned over to Lynn and whispered quietly in her ear.
“God just told the pastor to do something he’s gonna have to do.” He smirked and snickered and she elbowed him in his ribs.
The man walked down the main aisle and stopped next to Carl, bending down to speak to him. Carl looked back up at him without a word, then over at Tim and Lynn, a perplexed expression on his face. As the pastor took the stage he stood behind the pulpit and addressed the congregation with a hearty “Good Morning.” Without much more of a greeting, the man immediately began talking about a couple in their midst traveling across the country on horseback. After briefing them on the basics of the Tuggles’ mission, the pastor issued a challenge.
“I want everybody in this congregation to sow seed into this couple’s ministry. God has placed something big on their hearts and we need to be a part of it.”
Tim’s mouth hung open, stunned, as he listened to the man reiterate Carl’s words up in the office moments earlier. Calling the Tuggles up to the stage, he ordered them to bring both of their cowboy hats. Two of the deacons began passing the hats around the room, dollar bills piling out onto the floor. After three services of taking up offerings, Tim and Lynn left that church with $2,640.
That evening they visited with some of Carl’s friends at his house. One of the men, Rick, didn’t want the stories to end.
“You all need to haul your horses anywhere?” Rick asked out of the blue.
“Well as a matter of fact, we need to be in Illinois one week from today,” Tim responded.
“Well, I just got my old trailer repainted, changed the tires and the brakes, and got new bearings on it. It’s a two-horse trailer, but if you can use it, you can have it!” he said, enthusiastically.
“Can we take it to Illinois?” Tim asked.
“Yeah, I don’t care. Just take it.”
“Well,” Tim said turning to Lynn with a smirk.
“Well, what?” she asked, unsure of his intention.
“We have a truck, we have a trailer,” he unfolded a finger with each one, “and we have over $3,200.”
“Aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about planning it all?” She smiled at him confidently. “It’s so much easier this way.”