Remember what it was like when you were a child, and Christmas was near? The tree went up and the presents began to appear. The food changed to cookies and snacks of all kinds of sweets. If you had a Grandmother 40 years ago, she was likely to be baking cakes and pies and cookies. My favorite dessert was “Watergate”- at least that is what my grandma called it. A kind of a pistachio pudding on top of crushed pretzels and graham cracker crust covered by cream cheese frosting and whipped cream with those delicious pistachio nuts and maybe some crushed walnuts and don’t forget the mar chino cherries!!
Of course I was special to my grandma. She had a name only she knew for me, and I always got to help bake.
I may not have felt special in many other places, however, until her death at age 94, she always made me think I was her one and only favorite. My epiphany during my eulogy of her funeral with all of our extended family siting in the congregation in front of me as I spoke was that she, of course, just had the talent to make each person feel that they were her one and only special themselves.
Well, today begins Christmas weekend. We now live 4000 miles away from those days. It was 35 below zero, and I spent 4 hours outside working on our new log house thinking about this blog that my wife ask me to write about our calling to South Sudan.
It was a year ago at 49 ½ that my life changed dramatically for the better. Oxymoron that it may be it was a heart attack that was the catalyst for the change. Up until that day, I was pretty self-centered focusing on what I wanted out of life only. We have had the privilege, or maybe we made the way, to enjoy our dreams in travel all over the USA, Canada, a cruise to Mexico, and spending time in Germany. Living in Alaska these last 8 years, fishing and hunting and business have been amazing. Kids and Grandkids the same- amazing!
Yet how could I have missed (that secret my grandmother lived each day) that most important part of life all these years- People.
Before that heart attack I did not really ever care about people (notice I did not say “my heart attack” because I do not own it. It was just that an attack against my body to try to stop God’s plan in our lives that was just around the corner). Maybe no one ever knew how I felt, or perhaps, they all did. I do not really know. Truth be known, I only needed those people that I thought made my life what I wanted it to be. That was pre-heart attack.
After that experience, I feel God spoke to me a couple times in my spirit. He said, “ Denver if you always tell people off and treat them the way you feel they will not receive my love when you decide you want to share it with them. “
God later made it clear to me that he loves me like He loves Jesus since I am a son adopted by Jesus blood on the cross to Himself. He also said that he loves each person in this world like He loves me and that He needed me to begin to love them that same way.
I admit this stopped me in my tracks. It also melted all my prejudices toward people. People that were like me and people that were different. I began to realize that either because I was taught by peers, family, education, society, or by my own life experiences that I had developed a reason for not liking almost everyone. You see the Japanize bombed Pearl Harbor. The Germans (my own heritage) killed the Jews and caused two world wars. Not sure exactly why, but African Americans had done something, and so had the rich, and the poor, and the homeless, and the prisoners, and the democrats, and the republicans….the Catholics, the Baptists, the ….and well how far do you want me to go.
I began to understand real joy comes from loving people. It is a GOD THING. People who do not have the ability to love us back on their own, as well as, those friends that do. I imagine each person has to realize this on their own and cannot get it just because I write that it happened to me. All I know is that I once was blind and now I see. I see that my own heart is free to love, and receive love like never before because I learned to not be wrapped up in my own little world of consumption and acquisition. I learned that I do not have to earn my way to God. His Grace is free as a gift, and I cannot do anything to achieve it. I must quit trying and take Grace just as God wrapped it. I learned that peace with myself, others, and God came as a result of realizing He loved me enough to die for me to give me access to His kingdom and His throne.
He calls me son. God loved people. He created people. He died to save people from their slavery to sin.
He calls to us to love each other.
What did Jesus mean when He said, “Love your neighbor? As yourself? Love your enemies? Love your brother?” Did He really mean Love them like I would want to be loved?
Stacey and I started supporting a little orphan boy in Africa. No big deal. It was the right thing to do. What is a dollar a day? I drink more in soda each day than that. Then compassion increased it to three kids- A girl and two boys. They have nothing.
Even though the crooks of the world had used photos of children like these to steal people’s money and harden all of our hearts further to giving when we see those appeals, these were real kids who had nothing- Real friends of ours had been to this place, and told us about how it was there. So up until this point in time it was – someone far away that I did not know, and well God would Bless me for giving right? That was my thinking. Until one day a letter arrived in the mail from Oliver. He is 10 years old, can read and write English, and had lost both his father and mother as a result of the war. He had nothing to do with the cause or the result himself. He is just a victim. His letter to us began personally, “Dear Denver & Stacey,……I am praying for you. Thank you for sponsoring me. I hope you will visit…….”
Truthfully, you either get it or not here. God melted both my and Stacey’s hardness of heart and prejudices in one second. I NEVER wanted to go to Africa in my whole life. Yet that day we were called to go. At first it began as just a visit to a little boy; then, it developed into helping while we were there. Finally, it has become a consuming fire call on our lives for the future.
We have so much in America- The choice of the best schools and hospitals; the choice of where we live and what we eat. It is difficult to imagine a little child alone that may own no more than an oversized pair of shoes and a shirt if he is fortunate and nothing else. No school or medical available in the whole land, and no one to care, or try to help him. Not just one child like this but more than you or I can imagine.
This Christmas season shopping is not the same for me. I see people filling their carts with toys and gifts.
I wonder: would they possibly share one of those with someone that has no one to care. Or are the gifts all for themselves and their own families- Much like what I have done over the years.
What if we all just shared a little?
Remember that Grandma I told about earlier? What do those children do that never had a mom or a grandmother like that? What if the only people they had were other kids without parents?
One lady did something about this. She gave up what she had in Wisconsin and moved to South Sudan with her Husband and son. The last 10 years Mama Lily and Dennis and Lance have built two orphanages based on God’s love. They have helped almost 500 kids. Yet many others have not been helped and many even died alone. If you ever read her book, it would challenge you to reach deep inside and be part of the solution. Imagine a budget of $65,000.00 per month to feed your kids?
God will make a way for you to help. God will make a difference if you just care. No matter if it is giving $1 a day to feed and clothe and educate one real child, who would most likely die without that help, or just maybe your talents and skills could change a nation by physically going. No effort is without notice.
Remember the widows mite Jesus said was more that all the rich offerings?
We in our world as people need to care because it was not many years ago we had our own civil war in our own country. What if that war, or the depression of the next generation, or Hitler’s madness of the next had not been stopped and your kids were left alone dying without food or friend? It could be you there. It could be us- anyone of us?
It does not matter, who you are, or what your faith, age, or financial ability is. Your help is important. Everyone can give some love no matter how big or small. Grandmothers can make clothes, Schools can befriend and support other kids, or business people can be human and share liberally to make a difference in a generation that could grow up loving America for all of the love America gave to them.
They might be the one to save your grandchild’s life someday.
Stacey and I did not know how much this would cost. Yet God has supplied the entire amount for our personal expenses on this first step of our two month journey. Half the money came by way of increasing our income, and half of it came through people like you giving. God is a giver. I hope those who really know me someday will say that we are like God in that way.
We are excited that in just over a month we will be on a plane to love these children. I have been given opportunity to speak 9 times in their chapel services and most likely will preach in the churches as well.
We also hope to help some kids on our way thru Uganda, and shore about this with friends and churches in Germany on the way home almost two months later. I believe one day soon we will join this mission full time.
I cannot speak for you my friend, but if I can make a difference to one or a dozen or a hundred thousand
The journey begins with the first step. Walk with us won’t you?