I think it is easier for people to give money to causes or to make sandwiches that someone else delivers to the hungry, than it is to enter into a relationship with a vulnerable person – to look in their eyes and to get to know them as a person just like yourself with strengths and weaknesses. This is what Jesus did – he made eternal relationships. We are called to do this too.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
I want to tell you my story in order to describe what this relationship might look like. I want to encourage you to venture outside of your comfort zone, not as a hero, but as a broken human being in relationship with another broken human being. This is not the first time I have done this . . . but it is easy. You can do it too! And doing it with a friend is the best way to go!
My Refrigerator has the best art in America
I spend most of my days doing research and writing. I spend a lot of time preparing to teach and speak and preach. And then there are a lot of engagements usually at night and on weekends. So I am a busy person. Maybe even busier than you. But there is always time to do good if you make it a priority.
The Spirit led me (and a friend) to volunteer at a school where I went through a background check first. The teachers guided each volunteer in how to help a particular child. The program was well structured and run by selfless teachers and volunteers. My child was a quiet girl who hadn’t been around English speakers very much so she really just needed practice reading and memorizing sight words. It was easy. I held up the words, we’d sound them out. And she learned them – like a sponge. I’d ask her to use them in a sentence. We would compare them to other words like “there, their, and they’re” or “our and are.” It was fun. As she got to know me, she told me about her family and I told her about mine.
The first night we worked together she knew about 1/3 of the words she needed for her grade level. At the end of the year, she still hadn’t completely caught up so I asked if I might work with her over the summer. The school said to ask her mother, but it couldn’t be something the school supported.
No problem! I had gotten to know her mother very well by then. We would talk in broken English and broken Spanish as best we could whenever I tutored. By the way, I am taking a class in Spanish so I can do a better job in the future. But we used GoogleTranslate when we needed to. We said more with emojis in text messages than we did with words. I had found out, through her daughter, that she was cleaning houses for a living and hired her to clean mine. She does an excellent job, by the way.
So her mother and I decided when she came to my house, she would bring her daughter and I would practice reading English with her over the summer. Then we started on multiplication tables too. Last night she knew every sight word on her list for her grade level!!! Other nights, I go to her tiny spotless one bedroom apartment where two families live and most everyone has to sleep on the floor and we read together at her kitchen table.
Going to her house is a real joy. I usually have her little boy cousin in my lap eating crackers and getting them all over me, her mom is in the kitchen fixing dinner when not learning the words with her daughter, her little sister sits across the table carefully hanging on my every word, and her older cousin, who knows English very well, stands next to the child I tutor giving her hints as necessary. Last night, when my child struggled with a brand new word, her cousin kissed her on the cheek and said, “I love you!” Then looked at me and said, “I love her so much.”
A little while later, this cousin looked at me and said, “You are beautiful!” So now I am worried about her vision! Just kidding! Actually, I know she sees me with her heart and my looks – hair in a pony tail with no makeup on at all – don’t even matter!
Some days the mother sends me home with a bowl of rice for my family. I wanted to say no at first because I know they have very little money for anything and I didn’t want to take their food. But I realized this was an important gift and I could not refuse it. Besides it was delicious!
So last night after I got home, my child’s mother texted me, “God sent you to us.” I responded with “I pray for each of you every day.” Shortly afterwards, coincidentally, I got a call from a boy I tutored two years ago through my church and no longer needs my help. He just wanted to say, “Miss April, I am going to camp next week!” I know that to go to camp they have to have a certain number of shorts and shirts. I asked him if he had them. He said, “I have everything!”
The truth of the matter is God may have sent me to them, but God also sent them to me just as much. They are all part of my family now. And that overwhelms me with joy so much that I actually have a hard time experiencing it without wanting to cry.
You can do this too. It is easy. Ask the Spirit to open up opportunities to enter into relationships that will matter for eternity. There are so many ways you can do the work of God. I do this one (or maybe two) days a week for just a couple of hours. It is pure joy for me. Think about getting involved with someone who is vulnerable too. Not to be a hero, but to exchange God’s love together and make a difference in each other’s lives.
One more thing… Often when I speak, groups will give me a gift of money… they know I spend it helping out in these situations with food, clothes, furniture, learning games, etc. I want to say thank you to those groups! It is a good thing you have done.
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