WAPAKONETA — Pastor Mick Whistler, of Grand Lake United Methodist Church in Celina, was determined to make this Advent season different from any other. This year, to celebrate the coming of Jesus, he and his congregants gave the gift of joy to five women, a gift they will not soon forget.
Whistler began the season of Advent by requesting his congregants to donate a minimum of $1 each church service for four weeks, keeping the recipients of the donation a secret.
It was during the 11 a.m. Christmas Eve service that he revealed his red server’s apron and announced that he would be donating a total of $3,577 to the Waffle House in Wapakoneta.
He was inspired to donate to the Waffle House after reading a passage in the book “The Sent” written by Jorge Acevedo and four pastors — Justin LaRosa, Jacob Armstrong, Rachel Billups and Lanecia Rouse.
In this particular passage Armstrong reflected on a moment when he took his kids to Waffle House before school and they were astonished to know that the employees work throughout the night serving hungry customers. Armstrong then compared the employees to the shepherds who watched over the flock at night and who God told about Jesus.
“People don’t get excited like they use to for the season of Advent,” he said. “I was hoping to do something that night that would help us create our own version of the Nativity story. We wanted to be Jesus to the shepherds.”
So that night he, and 60 to 70 congregants, traveled to Waffle House for dinner in which they left the $3,500 as tip. His one request was that they split the money equally into $700 apiece .
The ladies were filled with emotion when they received the money. Carla Dietrich, one of the employees who now plans to fix the brakes on her car, was in complete shock when she first found out about the tip.
“I was in disbelief and I thought it was a catch, but it was a blessing, because all of us needed something.” she said.
For the employees, this was a dream come true. One can now take care of her sick dad and another will have more money to send her son off to college.
“It was an awesome feeling to talk to them and hear how they planned to use the money,” said Whistler. “But it wasn’t all about the money. It was about sharing our faith and inspiring others.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.