Friday, March 23, 2007

Loving God...Loving People: Watching Him Work

*NOTE: Names and some details have been changed to protect the humble, exception noted for my wife and I who, speaking for myself, am far from humble.

“Hey Kim, its Mary…I need your help. Can you call me soon?”

This is the gist of a voice message Kimberly received late Monday morning. Mary is a high school honor student whom Kimberly has met through the Sunday School class that she helps to lead. Mary has not been to church in many months nor has the rest of her family so it was a surprise to receive this phone call. They do not live exactly close to the church and being that their family of six only has one automobile, transportation has been an issue. Mary’s father, Paul, has had a medical emergency that has recently hospitalized him as his doctors are seeking guidance on how best to proceed given his condition. Oh yeah…and Mary is a sixteen-year-old mother of one.

Paul had been caring for Mary’s child, Hannah, during the day while she and her siblings were at school and her mother was at work. Paul is on medical disability from an accident that occurred many years ago. Thus, with Paul’s recent hospitalization, Mary was left without a caretaker for Hannah and, double-whammy, this honor student was unable to go to school. Therefore, Mary was seeking help from Kimberly to find someone who can watch Hannah until Paul recovers.

“Do you have any money for daycare?” Kimberly asks, knowing the answer.

“Well, I’m working on that” Mary responds. Kimberly can sense that Mary knows that she has made a mistake. She made a series of poor choices over a year ago that led to this day while a teenage mother seeks to make it against impossible odds. Sin has consequences…but there is indeed grace. Shall we sin so that grace may abound? May it never be! But when we do, we must always look to the Purifier to purify our hearts for Him.

Mary needs to go to school; she is cognizant of this truth. Hannah needs a baby-sitter; understatement of the century. Mary needs to do what is in the best interest of Hannah; a God-glorifying response. Several months ago, another young mother decided to leave her two children, ages nine and three at home while she went out to a party for the evening. When she came home, her house had burned and her three year old was dead. The nine year old escaped, but the mother is now facing charges of manslaughter for the death of her child. May the Lord be merciful to her and allow her the time to be spent in prison calculating the value of human life. Mary is not this woman. Mary is concerned for Hannah and knows that the best thing for Hannah is for Mary to get the best education that she possibly can in an attempt to make the best life for Hannah available.

Mary had called everyone she knew and could not come up with a viable solution. Kimberly, a leader in her Sunday School class, came to mind as an option for suggestions. Kimberly called me and asked me what she should do. I must confess that the very first thought that ran through my mind was, “Sin has consequences. Tell her to deal with it herself.” There is a glaring un-grace, un-mercy, and un-Christ coming through this statement. Thankfully, my wife did not have the thoughts that I did and, moved with compassion, sought to find help for this weary traveler. She saw a need in a younger sister in Christ and yearned to see the Father meet this need. Kimberly desired to be an instrument of grace in the Redeemer’s hands.

So, the ever-so-thoughtful wife of mine, after receiving little help from me (), phoned our youth minister to gather his input, the children’s minister to see about daycare options at church, and contemplated phoning a full-time mother who may have the ability to help a few days a week. Our youth minister returned her call and gave her the name of a couple who may know how best to proceed. This couple, Priscilla and Aquila, head a ministry effort for underprivileged children living in one of the poorest counties in the country and the poorest county in our neighboring state, Mississippi. They host vacation Bible schools, Christmas parties, and summer events for these children as well as provide for clothing and other physical needs. Most importantly, however, they bring the hope of the gospel to offer eternal life to these children, not just a more comfortable life. Thus said, this couple definitely has a loving and giving heart, but are they able to take care of this child? And were they able to take care of this child tomorrow? They were not, but their daughter was.

After speaking with Priscilla, Kimberly learned that Priscilla’s daughter, Lydia, was entertaining the idea of using her gifts to serve others as a foster parent. However, since the process is lengthy and the inspections are many, the modus operandi had not been completed. Kimberly spoke with Lydia to see what her thoughts would be in helping Mary and Hannah turn toward a better tomorrow, and indeed, it needed to be tomorrow! Lydia responded in a way that should not surprise us because we know that it is God who is working all things according to the purpose of His will, the praise of His glorious grace, and the glory of His name. She said, “Absolutely. I will drive the approximate fifteen miles (one-way) to pick up Hannah in the morning and return her back in the evening. Will Mary mind that Hannah travels everywhere with me?”

Kimberly then explained that she was unsure how long this scenario would last. Paul is in need of some pretty extensive medical care which may require a lengthy period of recovery. Kimberly needed to be sure that Lydia would not be surprised by the length of commitment, and also, to offer hope that her obligation may be complete in one week. She did not know. Lydia’s response? “Well, I am available through this year and the summer and next even if need be! I have plans to go out of town next month, and if Mary is OK with it, I will just have to take Hannah with me!” Incredible! What a way of showing grace to an individual whom SHE HAD NEVER MET! Grace is grace when it is given without requirement or pre-qualification.

This was Monday. Tuesday, the relationships began between Mary, Lydia, Hannah, Priscilla, Aquila, and the rest of the extended families. Lydia, Priscilla, and Aquila made the trek out to Hannah’s home in order to pick her up for the day. The night before, Priscilla and Aquila made a shopping trip to pick up a few odds and ends – to include a stroller and car seat! This is ministry: investing more of ourselves financially, emotionally, or chronologically for the purpose of the glory of the Lord to be made known. Mary kept saying, “Thank you” over and over again. Lydia, Priscilla, and Aquila replied, “Don’t thank us…praise God.”

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Ps 115:1)
Lydia and Kimberly spoke Wednesday to see how things were. Hannah is now going to spend the night with Lydia and her family two nights a week and Lydia is even taking to Hannah to school some mornings! I can not stress enough that this is far from convenient for Lydia! They do not live in the same subdivision, let-alone, the same suburb! Ministry is not often “convenient” by our terms. But moved with compassion as our Lord was, inconveniences are longer seen as an inconvenience, they are seen as Yahweh’s providence. Lydia and her family have purchased outfits for baby Hannah and have assured mother Mary that she need not provide formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and the like. Grace just does that some times. When you expect a little, grace come through in ways beyond measure.

Open the floodgates of Your grace on us, O God, and grant me a spirit of willing, sacrificial, service for the sake of Your name, Your glory, and Your renown for the edification of Your church. “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chr 29:11-13).

“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.” (Acts 16:13-15)


Anonymous said...

I love this testimony and how this is truly loving God and Loving People. Amazing! I want to live my life out like "Lydia"...
Now I know why you liked that name!

KathyH said...

That's incredible! Could I put it on my blog???

KC Armstrong said...

Hey Kathy,

You are welcome to post this article on your blog provided you post a reference link to the original post.

"All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, and all Your saints shall bless You! They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and tell of Your power, to make known to the children of man Your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom." (Psalm 145:10-12)

"Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You!" (Psalm 67:3)