Have You Experienced Grace?
by Gary McLain

Did you know that the Adventist Book Center (ABC) is much more than a retail store selling Adventist veggie meat and Bibles? Yes, good food and good books are the substance of the ABC, but there is more to it than that. It is a mission.

Eileen, an employee of the local ABC, went to take the trash out of the restrooms one Wednesday afternoon and noticed that in the women’s restroom the trash was more full than usual. Compacting the trash in the trashcan so it wouldn’t fall out as she pulled the bag out of the can, she heard a lot of unusual crunchy noises. So she took off the top few paper towels and noticed four empty buckets of dried fruit, some candy wrappers, and a half-eaten fake beef jerky strip. It was fairly obvious that someone had emptied the contents of these containers into their pockets or purse. What a disappointing feeling to come upon such a find. It added up to about $40 of food. Eileen reported it to the store manager, Steve, but they had no idea of who had done this.

Two days later, an attractive twenty-something, well-dressed woman came in to the store. Zach remembered her coming in earlier that week and mentioned it to Sharon. He said “I have a feeling we need to keep our eyes on her.”

They covertly watched as she shopped. Sure enough, she picked up two more containers of dried fruit and meandered toward, and then into, the women’s restroom. Eileen immediately went into the restroom, but the young lady had gone into one of the stalls. Eileen could only hear the sounds of opening containers and such. She went directly to Steve and alerted him to the situation.

Close by the restroom entrances there is a reading nook with s few chairs. Steve took a seat and waited for the young lady to come out. She emerged after about 15 minutes, and Steve politely invited her to take a seat and asked if he could talk with her for a moment.

She agreed and sat down. Steve said, “I know you have been stealing from us.” She confessed and began crying. What do you think Steve said next?

He said, “I want to help you. Is there anything we can do to help you not steal any more?”

“My parents fight and I don’t have very much food at home. It is really hard to get good nutritious food.” After she explained her situation, Steve had prayer with her and they talked about what had just happened. Then he took her to the front to meet Sharon and Eileen.

Handing her one of Sharon’s business cards, Steve then invited the young woman to come back on Monday. They would have some groceries for her because she needed some food. She stood there with a look of “what have I gotten myself into?” Then Steve asked if the ladies could give her a hug before she left, and she agreed.

The idea was for the staff to connect with her. Trying to make a friend for Christ and giving grace, Steve had made it clear that she was welcome to come back to the store, but not to steal. Eileen was taken over with emotion at the extension of grace taking place in their store. Natural instinct is to want people to “pay” for their wrong doings or to get even with them, but grace was extended to this young lady.

Sharon and Eileen went shopping that very afternoon and had fun getting some great food items for the young lady, even purchasing some gift cards to a local sandwich shop. They eagerly looked forward to Monday. But ten o’clock on Monday rolled around and their doubts of her returning came true.

Grace equals unmerited mercy. Romans 3:23 (KJV) states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Undeserving as we each are, God extends His grace to you and me on a daily basis. Can we do any less for our fellow man?