This is a tale of two cities. San Diego and Desert Center. Both are in California.
San Diego is a city that lies right on the Pacific, just above the border from Tijuana, Mexico. The weather is moderate almost all year round. The palm trees wave in the bright blue sky. The smell of ocean breeze when driving the coast is comforting. It is a destination for many tourists and visitors. The population is close to 1.4 million, which makes it the second-largest city in California and the 17th largest in the United States.
Desert Center is a little town about 40 miles from the Arizona border on Interstate 10. It is in the middle of nowhere, stuck between Blythe and Indio in the California desert. It is a ghost town of what it used to be. The Kaiser mine, just a few short miles away, closed many years ago. There is a golf course now and two small lakes (Lake Tamarisk) for the residents and the many "snow birds" who descend on the small town in the winter months. The population almost triples when the seasonal visitors come and stay. The sign on the highway says the population is 125. It is not unusual for the temperatures in Desert Center to reach 120 degrees, I was told by residents there.
And that is why I mention these two cities. I was in both of them over the weekend.
Friday afternoon, Sondra and I drove down to the Silver Strand on Coronado Island in San Diego. Our good friends, Gene and Pam Ressler who still live in 29 Palms, were there as they had set up their fifth-wheel RV trailer just a few feet away from the water of the bay. It was a relaxing week for them in retirement (even though Gene still works to keep busy), and we were invited to come down. We arrived in time to eat dinner at Anthony's Seafood Restaurant on the wharf with them, taking little grand-daughter Bailey with us also.
Sondra and I spent the night at the Holiday Inn directly across the street from the restaurant, so that was convenient. I had gone online prior to bid on a room via Priceline.com and was successful in getting that room for $57 for the night.
The next day we sat on the waterfront with Gene and Pam, just talking and catching up on news about each other's families. We ate, shared good memories, talked of church life, opened up our hearts, laughed and cried, and were sad to leave at the end of the day. It was a wonderful time and we didn't want it to end. But we had to go home.
Sunday, we were blessed in our time of Bible study and worship. At the end of the service, I met with a homeless couple that introduced themselves to me earlier in the week at Fairmount Park. I had been asked to speak at the Third Year Anniversary of our ministry for feeding the homeless at the park. This couple (Steven and Carrie) came to our worship service Sunday and are interested in getting married in the church. They want to be baptized as well, so we are excited about what God is doing in their lives.
Then, Sunday afternoon I left on a little journey to Desert Center. Clif Sanford and Christina Kennedy live there, and they had asked me some time back to marry them. Clif was an inmate at Chuckawalla Prison with my brother David last year. When Clif found out that I was a pastor from conversations with David, he told David that he was going to have me do his wedding when he got out. Some months back, Clif got out and we have been in touch all year about a marriage date.
I arrived in Desert Center about 5 pm at their house, which was right across the street from little Lake Tamarisk where the wedding would take place. It was a simple ceremony with no music, no chairs, no suits and no fanfare. Just a few family members and friends from the community. It was great. Later when we had the ceremony, the sun was setting, the breeze was cool and everyone was in fine spirits. Clif was in blue jeans, cowboy shirt and cowboy hat. Christina was in a pretty blouse and white pants.
I drove home that night thinking of the two cities, San Diego and Desert Center. Both were special to me because I had shared in the lives of two very different couples. The geographical and physical description of a city doesn't make it any better than another. It's what happens in every city that makes the difference.
We had fun in San Diego with the Resslers, and I had fun doing a wedding ceremony for the Sanford family. I had a great weekend. I felt God's presence in so much that was going on all weekend long. Life should be fun, and God helps make it that way!