Monday, May 10, 2010

Be Jesus

This past Friday our family had the privilege of hosting a pizza party and game night for a great group of women and children. We've been doing this as a family for the past ten years. When we started this family tradition, Caleb was four and Rachel was two. There are many different reasons why we chose this activity. First and foremost, we wanted our children to understand at a very early age the importance of serving others. Second, we wanted our children to know that most people do not live the way we live. Third, this allows us an opportunity to place our hands into the hands of others who might need a word of encouragement, a smile, a laugh, and most importantly, a little piece of time to forget about the burdens of life.

We host our party at a Rescue Mission which provides many services for women and children. The most important thing to take place between the walls of this shelter, is the uncompromising message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, people who are homeless need shelter. Yes, people who are hungry need fed. Yes, people who are without proper clothing need clothes. Yes, people who have used up all of their chances with family and friends, need another chance. While all of the physical needs must be met, the transforming power of the Gospel message is the foundation by which all services are given. Jesus changes lives. I know. Jesus changed my life 21 years ago.

I could tell you many wonderful stories of the women and children we've met over the years. Some of them made such an impact on me that I can still see their faces. I'm sure my children have favorite stories of children they have met over the years too.

One story from several years ago is of a mother with her young daughters. The girls were close in age to my own children. I can still see this mother and her two daughters. Their arms were wrapped around her waist with their faces buried in her side. This mother was weeping. I don't know what trauma they had been through as a family. All I know is that we arrived, served pizza, and played lots of fun games together for several hours. It was when we were saying our goodbyes that I caught this scene of the mother weeping. The mother explained to me that a distance had grown between her and her daughters. They hadn't laughed together nor hugged nor told their mom "I love you" in quite some time. Somehow their time together of playing games gave this family an opportunity to heal. Without really knowing it, they had been laughing and having fun...again. Hugs and "I love yous" followed. This mother's tears were tears of happiness.

I remember when our children were quite young, a very tired mom who was obviously at the breaking point with her children misbehaving, bellowed at them. She was a very large woman with a very deep and very loud voice! I happened to be cleaning the kitchen when this incident took place. The next thing I knew, both Caleb and Rachel were at my side hugging me and telling me they loved me. Why? Because they had never been yelled at and they had never before heard anyone yelled least not like this. They saw the faces of the children as they were catchin' it from their mama. This Mama's not so bad after all.

Not too long ago, a number of families had been staying at the Mission. It just so happens the majority of the children were boys. Lots of boys doesn't happen too often. These boys had become friends and were a couple of years younger than Caleb. I must say that boys are always drawn to Mr. Wonderful and Caleb. Always. These particular boys and their moms ended up staying at the Mission for several months, so we got to know them and fell in love with their different personalities. Caleb is a great leader and knows just what to do with a tribe of young boys. He's so patient and is a great teacher. Keep in mind, many of these children have never sat at a table and played board games together. They don't know about following rules or taking turns or that someone has to lose. Caleb is great at helping them to learn and have fun together. If you could hear the laughter that takes place over Trouble and Sorry!, you'd be laughing too. This particular group of boys loved Caleb. And he loved them too. Caleb spent many, many hours with these boys over the many months of their stay at the Mission. One boy, I can still see his face, would greet Caleb with a cool handshake and a hug around the shoulder. We were delighted to hear him tell Caleb, "Ya know, I could hang witchoo. I could hang witchoo!" And Caleb lovingly returned the sentiment. Goodbyes are always hard. We know we may never see these kids again.

This past Friday brought us to another pizza party and game night. We were greeted by many new smiling faces. We hadn't met them, but they knew about us and couldn't wait to play games together. Rachel paired up with a beautiful little five-year old girl who absolutely loved playing Pretty, Pretty Princess. She would squeal with delight every time she won and announce, "Pretty, pretty princess!" Her mom would look over (us moms were playing "Dutch Blitz" together) and just smile the biggest smile.

Mr. Wonderful spent most of the evening playing games with one adorable little boy who was filled with non-stop questions.

For a time, my 3-year old nephew called my husband Aunt Jerry. This was, however, the first time I was mistaken for a man!

Here's how some of the questions went...

What's your husband's name (pointing to Yours Truly!)?
What's that boy's name (pointing to Caleb)?
What's her name (pointing to Rachel)?
How come you aint got no hair?
How come your head is shiny?
How come you have hair on your face?
Have you ever had a mustache?
And then proceeded to tell Mr. Wonderful he was silly.

How adorable is that?!

Anyway, I don't tell you these stories to come across as though we are patting ourselves on the back or want to receive some sort of recognition. Not at all. I tell these stories as a way to encourage other families to consider serving together in some way, whatever that might be. It has been life changing for our family. Our children have learned many life lessons including compassion and empathy.

We have been wrongly criticized for "exposing" our children to those people. Let me just say that we always pray together as a family before we serve together. Our family has always been protected. Our children, however, have been exposed to the consequences of poor decisions. They have met many who have lost everything because of drug or alcohol addiction. They have met many teenagers who are unmarried and pregnant. They have met many children who don't know their fathers. They have met many children who have not been given the attention and love they need and long for. They have seen firsthand what it is to live life without hope. Without Jesus. But they have also seen lives forever changed due to the power of the Gospel.

For a few hours on a Friday, we get to be the hands of Christ. We get to give the smile that Jesus would give. We get to laugh, just like Jesus would laugh. And we always, always, always, leave that beautiful place feeling like we received more than we ever could have given. We are the ones who are blessed. We are the ones whose lives have been changed.

Be Jesus to someone today.
P.S. Sorry! I didn't realize this post was so long until I published it. Got a little too windy, I guess.


  1. GB sends a special "thank you" for sharing this! This will be seen 'n read by many more than you realize...for His glory, of course...Like the "Men's Warehouse man says,"I guarantee it!!" grin, but very serious!! Hugs!

  2. And this is why you are Mr. AND Mrs. Wonderful, and the Wonderful family. Your ministry to the least of these is service to Our Great Lord and Savior! Your posts will never be too long. . . write on, dear friend.

  3. Oh wow, that is so neat...