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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

From my Front Porch

Thursday, August 7, 2003

A tale of two cities

A tale of two cities

To borrow from Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And so begins my tale of two cities, both named O'Fallon.

I was to pick up my daughter who for a second summer was spending a week working in East St. Louis with Global Ministries, a mission organization based in Springfield. This year she was staying at a church in O'Fallon and I had decided to arrive a day early to help in the kitchen and visit with the friends I had made last year when she stayed at another church.

Realizing my propensity for getting lost, my husband printed out the directions to O'Fallon, Missouri. I had found the directions via the Internet, first typing in O'Fallon, Illinois, but getting an error message. Naively assuming I was mistaken, I retyped my request as O'Fallon, Missouri.

I stored the step-by-step instructions to O'Fallon in the visor of my diesel Dodge. In less than four hours, I would be hugging my daughter and working in the kitchen with old friends.

One would think that since I have actually visited the church in O'Fallon, Illinois, I would realize something was amiss as I drove through O'Fallon, Missouri, down Main Street turning right on Veterans Memorial Boulevard to find the First Baptist Church on the left.

The church did seem different from what I remembered, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. There were a few cars in the parking lot, but not nearly as many as there should have been considering the church was hosting over 300 youth and church leaders from 24 churches during this week of ministry in East St. Louis.

I went to an entrance marked "CHURCH OFFICES" and tried to open the door. It was locked.

"That's odd," I thought as I pushed the buzzer.

"May we help you?" asked a voice I suspected had never considered asking anyone if they wanted fries with that.

"This is Barbara Madden with Global Ministries," I answered. That was easy enough, I thought, relieved as I heard a click and opened the door.

I greeted the two secretaries sitting at their desks. "Can you direct me to the kitchen? I'm here to cook." No response.

I continued, "I came early to work in the kitchen and then take my daughter home. She's here with Global Ministries." Still, no response.

And then my heart sank as reality began to dawn on me. "You have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, do you?" I asked, cheerfulness giving way to exasperation.

They shook their heads and answered, "No, we don't."

"Good grief, there wouldn't happen to be another O'Fallon?" I asked fearing the inevitable reply.

"Yes. O'Fallon, Illinois."

I placed a call to the Illinois church, tried my best to explain what had happened and said I'd be there in about an hour. Hopefully.

That evening, after finally arriving at the proper O'Fallon Baptist church, my friends who had been awaiting me laughed as they told how someone had come into the kitchen with the news that a lady who was supposed to be in O'Fallon, Illinois, had ended up in O'Fallon, Missouri.

"That would be Barbara Madden," they'd agreed without hesitation. My dear friends know me well, which would explain why, despite everything else, it was indeed the best of times.