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9 stranded travelers buoyed by couple’s gift for hospitality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Mix together southern hospitality, Good Samaritan-style helpfulness, snow, icy roads and filled-to-capacity hotels, and you’ve got a formula for high excitement.

Cassandra King, of LifeWay Christian Resources’ international department, tried it one day in January when about seven inches of snow fell on Nashville and surrounding areas. She, like several others at LifeWay, left work early to beat the hazardous road conditions. On her way home, however, King discovered several marooned motorists who weren’t so lucky.

“I live within a mile of Interstate 24, and the place where I usually stop off to get gas was unusually full of people,” King said of her two-hour drive home, which normally takes about 35 minutes. “I found out there were several people who had been there since 8 that morning because the interstate had closed down. And it was 3:30 in the afternoon.”

King struck up a conversation with a 76-year-old woman, who was stranded with her husband, a retired dentist. They were Mennonites who travel the nation on disaster relief missions.

“I told her we have an apartment behind our house all ready for guests and asked her if they would like to stay the night,” King said. “She immediately said, ‘Yes!'”

As King was giving them supper, the couple mentioned they had met several “very nice people” who were also sidelined for the night.

So King’s husband, Bill, drove to check on them to see if they had found a place to sleep. The Kings’ van returned full of people.

“More and more people kept getting out of the van,” King said. “I just kept counting them, and there were five.”

By then, the Kings were up to seven overnight guests — the retired Mennonites from Illinois; a retired farming couple, also from Illinois; a retired engineer and his wife from Michigan; and a single man from Clarksville, Tenn., who had just been released from Nashville’s St. Thomas Hospital that day following back surgery.

“Because of his surgery, he had to sit up all night, so we put him in a recliner,” she said.

In fact, King decided to drive him home the next morning because he was too sore to make the trip alone. “So I was very glad LifeWay had called work off that day.”

Seven guests might be the limit for most couples, but not the Kings.

“My husband has such a gift for hospitality,” she said. “Sometimes when we leave for church, I’ll say, ‘Now, Bill, don’t ask anybody over this Sunday, please, because I don’t have anything cooked, and the house isn’t clean.’ Then after church, people will come up to me and say, ‘What can we bring over?’ He sometimes invites four families.”

So, with unrelenting charity, King’s husband decided to visit another convenience gas station near their home to search for more people who might be homeless that night. On his second trip, he brought back a young Georgian couple who manages a home for wayward boys.

And then there were nine. Luckily, King said, she had enough to eat.

“I couldn’t sleep the night before so I got up and made a big pot of chicken soup and a chocolate cake. Now, isn’t that just like the Lord? That’s not something I normally do at 3 in the morning.”

King said her nine houseguests had a big time. One couple slept in the extra apartment, and the others slept in the house, she said.

“Everybody enjoyed each other, and they were so excited. Most of them knew each other because they had talked all day in the gas station.

“I finally had to give them their blankets and pillows, and say, ‘Sleep wherever you want, I’m going to bed.’ They had a ball.”

Ironically, the house full of guests was an answer to prayer, King said. She and her husband built their apartment as a ministry to people, mostly missionaries, who needed a place to stay for short periods.

“Our apartment had been empty for a while, and so that’s where I’ve been going for my morning devotionals. Just the other day, I prayed, ‘Lord, this apartment has been empty for awhile, and we built it for you, so I do wish you would use it for your glory.'”

King said God’s indisputable answer to prayer was comforting.

“I realized when all those people kept coming, it was a concrete answer to my prayer. It gave me faith that God answers all prayer, just maybe not always in such concrete ways.”

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  • Terri Lackey