Faith is the word that comes to mind as I put pen to paper, deciding what the spirit of Sweetwater Journey should be. Reading it should bring out the best in every reader as together we consider the ways in which each one of us rise every morning in faith that the sun will come up in the east and set in the west. Possibly for you too, it is in the early morning hours as the day begins that I am most aware of how much supernatural help (that is God, Jesus Christ and angels) I need to get through the day.
Sweetwater Journey is that walk of faith that happens one moment, one day, one mile at a time trusting that we are where we are supposed to be living out our purpose.
I have come to learn just how much we impact each other on this journey and that the help others are praying for may be “us”. It’s always an “ah ha” moment in my work as an advocate when people come to the realization based on the non-judgmental, unconditional help they are receiving from me that God did hear their prayers and he really loves them. This fact is one they may never have known before. It is only at the point of that realization that we begin to live in faith. Knowing we are loved and that someone truly cares about us especially our heavenly father, is the soul-satisfying sweetwater that deeply quenches and fills the emptiness that we experience without it.
I was 22 when I discovered that God was aware of me and that I had a purpose to fill in my life for him. That’s why I know how impacting that “ah ha” moment can be, as it has never left me.
Recently, someone I was working with who was going through an especially difficult time related to me how one morning she was so distraught that she fell to her knees and cried out to God to let her know that he was aware of what she was going through. She let the Bible fall open in front of her on the floor and placed her finger on a random verse and looked down. It was Psalm 40 that starts with “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry;”
This experience transformed her life and prepared her for the ordeals ahead. I have shared that with so many people when I felt they were approaching that point at which she found herself that morning. Reading that entire Psalm and knowing the circumstances she was facing was the sweetwater she needed at that time and thereafter. Her encounter is timeless and given as a blessing for everyone.
A woman of Samaria, one day gathered up her waterpot and went to the well at just the right time of day to have an encounter that would forever change her life, in fact it would restore her to life. She was far from perfect and was shunned by others in Samaria because of it. She thought she would be alone because she chose the right time of day to go when she wouldn’t have to feel the judgmental stares of others that made her shame even harder to bear. The sweetwater she would draw from that well on that day would wash over her as the healing words were spoken by the One who created her and able to restore her faith in herself and His purpose in her.
[John 4:16-17]” . . .whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman said unto him, Sir, give me of this water that I thirst not. . .”
Much of our life interacting with others is at the well. On any given moment on any given day we might be the person seeking water or we might be the Christ providing it.
For that encounter to be life-changing, there must be a loving, faithful heart at the center of it from which the life-giving water can flow. The loving heart realizes we are all beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. The faithful heart understands Christ’s life-giving message of a daily relationship with Him – a sweetwater journey.
1” I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
If you are blessed to be on a sweetwater journey then springs of life-giving water are flowing from you to bless the lives of everyone you encounter in positive ways.
“He who believes in Me . . . out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 NKJV
Imagine the world and how different it could be.
In the first Kung Fu Panda movie there is a line that stimulates much thought. “No bad news/good news, just news”. It could be that that’s a simplification of Christ’s words:
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Throughout the scriptures and especially the words of Jesus in the four gospels, we find words of hope and encouragement in the face of sore trials. We are prompted to not worry about anything. The Ozarks is beautiful, especially in spring every year. No spinning or toiling, it just comes naturally as part of the rhythm as Jesus points out.
In a sweetwater journey, assurance is promised to the faithful that absolutely nothing can overwhelm or overcome us. A friend of mine wrote in his perspectives on “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” :
“Though we are quite right in thinking that the suffering of the innocent is bad, (God does too, and calls us to do all we can to alleviate it) we need to be open to the possibility that God doesn’t always intervene – not because he’s uncaring or unable, but because extenuating circumstances beyond our range of vision make restraint necessary.” J Moody
Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV brings this statement into focus: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“God . . . calls us to do all we can to alleviate it”. That particular statement brought me back to the “well” as I pointed out in my first installment of Sweetwater Journey. The well is where we may be the person seeking life-giving water or we may be the Christ giving it. While God may not be taking immediate action that we are aware of to avoid or alleviate pain and suffering, perhaps it is our calling as a “neighbor” he counts on for that. With many of the clients who I have worked with, there was no “neighbor” there to listen and just encourage. It can be complicated helping others to the degree we are able but it is part of the faith journey.
In the dialogue in Luke 10 between Jesus and the lawyer we find the description of what it takes to be a neighbor:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” NIV
In the example that ensues, the audience becomes very uncomfortable even disgusted and angry as Jesus includes their sworn enemies the Samaritans in the story as the good guy. The Samaritans were Jews who married gentiles, broke the mosaic law, worshipped in their own temple in their own country and no longer paid the required temple taxes.
History relates that the Jews had declared the Samaritans taboo and unclean which meant in those times that you should not touch them or be touched by them. The battered Jew lying by the side of the road may have preferred to die rather than be physically touched by the man from Samaria.
At the end of the parable when Jesus asked the question “Who now of these three. . .was neighbor unto he who fell among thieves?” The lawyer had to admit that it was the one who showed mercy on him. Jesus then told him “Go and do likewise!”
Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He still does.
When I’m in a private conversation or with a group of friends, I have found that I can be a neighbor by not joining in and agreeing with negative assessments of others of whose extenuating circumstances I know little about. In the world of social work and clients, personal judgment calls and first impressions are quite often wrong. I’ve learned that as I get to know the person better, I can easily say “but by the grace of God go I”! We don’t know for sure, but what if we don’t get to choose the families or station in life into which we are born? It is only the sweet life-giving water that flows freely from each of us to all we meet whether we know them or not that raises us all to a level playing field so that whatever life we are born into we have an equal chance of success.
“1Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law does he meditate day and night. 3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV
Imagine the difference “no bad news/no good news, just news” could make in your family and your community as we become better neighbors.
The Missing Piece
On Sunday a friend of mine told me something she said had transformed her life. She had heard it in a sermon. It was “You only love God as much as the person you love least.” On Monday, I found myself staring into the eyes of one of the people I loved the least. I had come into a town in this area and he called to me as I crossed the street. I turned and there he stood, the guy who had brutally beat a young woman I had been working with for years. It was a difficult moment to say the least. Here he was one year later homeless and desperately needing help. That new phrase started to afflict my comfort a great deal “You only love God as much as the person you love least”! Then I thought of the relevant scriptures we are supposed to live by:
Matthew 5:43-48 NIV
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
And the big one that we are to be greeted with at our final judgement:
Matthew 25: 34-37 NIV
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You? . . .”
This all definitely afflicts our comfort level.
Prior to this in the week before, I had dropped off flyers at the Food Pantry in Houston. As I was walking up the sidewalk to my car I saw this puzzle piece on the walk. I walked on but decided there was a message for me in this tiny blue misshapen piece of cardboard. I dusted it off and noticed some of the blue had come off because of all the foot traffic. I laid it on the seat and went about my day thinking about that person who bought this 1000 piece puzzle and how much work it was going to be getting it together only to find out that it wasn’t perfect, even though it was just one little piece that was missing. The little piece that was missing would leave a hole in the beautiful picture of whatever it was – most puzzles have beautiful pictures. That hole even though it was tiny would be a gaping maw to look into as it destroyed the overall beauty. I thought of the most important things that tiny blue puzzle piece could represent that could be missing in our lives and I never thought of the one with which God was going to present to me.
Here was my tiny blue puzzle piece in the face of this person who was looking into my eyes and asking for help. I eventually acted in my humanitarian mode to get him clothing, food and shelter but was continually niggled by the spirit as to my motivation.
He was leaving the area, now my client could be safe, this long night was over for her but what of him? Is that what Christ meant by helping those who are hungry, thirsty and homeless? If I truly believed that it was the Christ who I was helping, I would have felt love and total regard for his welfare in spite of his past actions and gone the extra mile. “You only love God as much as the person you love least!” This new phrase was truly testing me. It states in the book of I John 4:8 “He who loveth not knoweth not God.”
I’m beginning to realize just how important love is because of the rest of the Matthew 25 reference:
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’
41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
I heard back from that gentleman as he left the area with a family member. He wanted to say “thank you”. I told him that it was God who put me in his path when he was hungry and homeless. It is God’s message to him that he loves him and wants to be in his life. He agreed.
Who or what is your tiny blue puzzle piece that would make your life whole?
Though water is refreshing to drink and certainly needed in bodies made of 80%+, the sweetwater that Jesus speaks of that quenches our spiritual thirst is a healing elixir that fills in the missing pieces we all have and at last makes us whole.
As whole people loving unconditionally without judging, imagine the difference it would make in our community?
In this journey, we never know when some seemingly small event will come into our day and leave a God-impression on us or a “God-wink” we could call it. Today as I was walking to my car in one of the housing areas where I provide parenting classes, I heard a voice call to me from across the street. It was a little guy, barefoot and muddy carrying a stick he was using to play with in all the puddles following a night-long steady rain. He called out to ask me if I could “pop the hood” so he could see the engine in my car. I told him I didn’t have time right now because I had to be somewhere. Of course then came all the “whys” and “what-fors” that goes along with that inquisitive stage, so important to learning. He walked over to the car and asked my name while I was putting my things into the passenger side door. I told him as I walked and then asked his name. He called it out to me and as I rounded the back of the car and was coming toward him he put out his hand crusted a little with mud waiting to complete the greeting. I gladly shook that outstretched hand while our smiling eyes met and held for a few seconds. This was such an unusual event in that we don’t normally meet children especially as young as he was who have the social amenities figured out as well as this little guy. Often mom has to be there and remind one as young as he was of the social graces like please and thank you let alone shaking hands. It also concerned me too that someone could take advantage of his innocent trust.
I had just read in the Houston Herald the latest “Kids Count” statistics that overall, Missouri has been improving in some areas in education however, the overall child well-being ranking of 27 brings the state, down one notch from last year’s ranking of 26, showing that there is still a lot of work to be done to improve the quality of life for Missouri’s children. While 446,000 children have parents who lack secure employment and another risk factor for poverty shows 444,000 children living in households with a high housing cost burden.
According to this report the number of children living in single-parent families went from 32% to 35% and from 5% to 9% (almost double) living in high-poverty areas. On the positive side, 2% more heads of families are getting their high school diplomas.
This child is one of the 306,000 who live in poverty in our state. He displayed fresh confidence and determination and as yet he didn’t know he was a statistic. He didn’t know that the journey he was on was going to present great obstacles on the road to success and mostly he didn’t know that in our society he was considered among “the least of these”.
At my church in Willow Springs we have a wild morning glory vine that has a beautiful little orange colored bloom in late summer. It grows out of the cracks in the tarmac drive in front of our open pavilion. This year we wrapped the pavilion poles with chicken wire and watched to see what would happen. At the time of this writing, the vines have covered the poles and are clear to the rafters getting ready to reach across the top front. It has transformed the pavilion in simple beauty beyond what we imagined. This child is like the beautiful wild vine thriving along the cracks in the tarmac until a caring person comes along and notices him and provides a way for him to grow up and out of a life that has many outcomes, most of which are less than what God intended for him, not because God doesn’t care but because not enough of us care, the ones he calls to this work.
The next day John and I left early so we could go to the complex and pull in and pop the hood for him if he was there. He was playing with a group of other children and we didn’t want to distract him.
With our communities filled with churches and civic organizations, what could be the results of our response to this child and others like him?
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. “ I John 4:7-8
According to these sacred words, loving members of the community living out their journey with Christ is the only solution. The current statistics of “Kids Count” is evidence that not enough impacting change is coming from the programs supported by our taxes. They certainly help to provide limited resources but do not alleviate the grinding life-shattering effects of poverty. For the most part these programs were created to control the negative effect on the general public keeping the rest of us free of the impact of their ongoing unfortunate condition. Our prisons fill with those who live on the fringes of the community – never a contributing part to its unique identity – their individual God-given talents lost to us all.
Jesus Christ calls us to be the difference. Everywhere Christ went he attracted the poor, the disabled, the possessed, those with broken hearts and spirits because He understood and loved His creation. He understood the circumstances and yes- poor choices in some cases that brought them to that point. These were the people who were to receive the funds from the “Tzedakah Box” (silent “t”) – Hebrew for the “righteousness box” . This box was placed in the temple for offerings to help the many people Christ drew to Him. This is why Christ said “you will always have the poor” because He knew that it wasn’t about money and programs but about spiritual change in us so we could see them the way He sees them and be moved to act above and beyond the least we can get by with. They would always be around as evidence of the sin of not truly living out the Journey in His name.
With the statistic numbers high, the task is so daunting that we can’t see where any one thing we could do would make a difference but a journey starts with one step and that step leads to another. The difference we can make may not necessarily just be with special offerings in our churches but with a transformation of heart and “eyes to see and ears to hear”. I saw this insightful saying on a message board on a church on Hwy 63 between Cabool and Houston, “God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called”.
Putting up chicken wire on a post for a little vine to truly become a thing of beauty was an act of faith. If we pray in faith for guidance on where to start, God will begin to qualify us for the task ahead. Yes, not everyone is called to this particular work so we can pray for the ones who are and assist in other ways.
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life”. John 4:14
“Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Isa. 58:10-11
Just imagine the impact of living water springing up within each of us and the difference it will make on all the children in our communities.
A Courageous Spirit
There is a folk tale that I ran across that fits difficult times in our lives.
It is a story about a small bird named Tasoo living in a vast jungle. One hot summer day a raging wildfire began to spread across the jungle devouring trees and animals in its path. Other birds flew high in the sky and far away to safety but not Tasoo. She couldn’t bear to leave her jungle home to burn. So day after day, she flew with all her might back and forth to the river, filling her tiny beak with water to drop on the raging fire. Tasoo’s rare heart of courage and unshakable determination moved the heavenly spirits to shed tears, and a great rain poured down upon the jungle, extinguishing the flames. And, so it is that even the smallest actions of a courageous spirit can change the world. Author unknown.
Everyone we know including ourselves have struggled with a raging wildfire in our lives at one time or another, perhaps you are going through one right now. In the Scriptures there are just right references to help us get through those times but there is one catch, you must believe for them to work for you. You have to trust in every word and go about your day in peace leaving the solving of that problem to God, the one to whom we go for help.
In Joshua 1:9 KJV we find one of these references 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
God loved Joshua because he was trusting and did what God told him to do. He looked to God for every detail in his life. He took God at his word that he would be with him wherever he went. Moses, Joshua’s mentor, never got to go into the Promised Land because of disobedience but Joshua was the leader of the next generation of Israelites who were born in the wilderness and had grown up totally dependent on God. In the wilderness, they didn’t have established villages with resources in place.
They had to look to God to see to their every need, always in their presence in some form and always accessible.
It was this generation Joshua led into Canaan, to receive the gift of the Promised Land that God had offered to give to the first generation. They were the ones who passed through the Red Sea and ate the manna and quail that God sent and complained about the discomfort in their new life even though they were no longer in slavery. After 40 years of wandering, Joshua was courageous and strong as he took the land of Canaan. He encouraged the people by telling them that the living God was among them and that they could not fail. Joshua 3:10 A Canaanite family Joshua encountered on a spy mission told him why they were afraid and had lost all courage as the Israelites gathered at their borders: “For the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11) Their idols of stone could not save them.
Experience has taught us that we truly mature when we face a crisis. It’s a crisis because it concerns an area where you feel the most secure and when that begins to fall apart it can feel like a raging wildfire out of control especially if, like Tasoo, all you have is a few drops of water to throw on it. In Romans 5:2-5 we learn that “through faith we glory in tribulation because tribulation brings about patience and patience, experience and experience, hope and hope takes away our shame” in the trial through which we are passing.
Like Joshua, God reminds us that we are called to have a courageous spirit whether it’s a situation with grave consequences or learning to live alone after a long, shared life with a loving partner. It’s trusting that we always matter whoever and wherever we are. Remember God said “whithersoever”. Our courage matters as someone is always observing and drawing it to themselves to face their wildfire.
Jesus Christ the living God of the universe is among us and lives through us. Whatever is occurring in our lives He is living it with us but with one difference He knows how it turns out and as long as faith is involved the outcome will be for our best good. Only God knows what that is.
This is the Sweetwater Journey we are all traveling- trusting that God is leading us through the crises to a promised outcome that will most benefit us and others. Job, another faithful servant of God with many raging wildfires in his life was given just the right counsel also meant for us today.
Job 11:13-19 NIV.
13 “. ..if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
15 then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.
Imagine a world of courageous people who are living like this in trust – each doing their part to be a person of integrity and honor in the face of crisis receiving the blessings that God is waiting to shower upon us. Imagine the difference it would make in our community.
Why Kid Fest: Coming Together In Love?
Teach us, Lord,
to do the little things
as though they were great
because of the majesty of Christ
who does them in us
and who lives our life.
Teach us to do the greatest things
as though they were little and easy
because of His omnipotence. Amen
(written by Blaise Pascal taken from 100 Prayers by the De La Salle Brothers)
Majesty means the greatness and dignity of a sovereign; the sovereignty and power of God; supreme authority or power. Omnipotence means having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful. (Taken from Free Online Dictionary)
In February of 2011, at the table where Kid Fest: Coming Together In Love was created there were gathered ministers who wanted to do something meaningful for families especially innocent children who live in poverty. That something meaningful needed to reflect the love of Christ. Some of the concerns that led to this were regarding the disparity between the socio-economic levels that exist within our area. In our various fields of work, we observe how those living in poverty can be disconnected from the life of the community and live on the fringes where life is unstable as it constantly changes with little control.
Many are single-parent families where poverty is felt the deepest. Statistics show that typically the head of these households are women. According to the latest Missouri Kids Count Report the number of children living in single-parent families went from 32% to 35% and from 5% to 9% (almost double) living in high poverty areas.
Today, one minimum-wage income for some families is not enough. If you live in a community where jobs are scarce, you most likely will live in public housing and depend on food stamps, medic-aid and TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. If you have a disability you could be receiving Supplemental Security Income or SSI. This can run between $600 and $800 per month. This may sound sufficient but trying to live on it is very difficult. Having a vehicle is a luxury. In this typical scenario, when you have finally stabilized your income, your housing and your children in school, then you most likely will have to deal with homeless out of work friends who typically want to live with you. I present this average scenario based on the cases of the hundreds of families over the last ten years I have helped. As this picture unfolds, stability begins to diminish. This once marginally stable household can attract people with drug problems, sexual predators and abusive individuals looking to victimize someone. Now the children are at great risk. In this out-of-control world they settle into a survival state. Eventually there is a critical mass: When something reaches the threshold of it’s limits. This can apply to things, people, events, or concepts. (Free Online Dictionary)
Someone who cares or who just wants to see you in trouble hotlines this unraveling situation to the Child Protection Service and an intervention occurs. The children may be left in the home with services in place or if conditions are severe taken into state custody and placed in foster care.
It is at this point that programs like Christos House step in to provide services that will help this family. Here is where the love of Christ is most desperately needed if it hasn’t yet been introduced into their life, at least to the degree that was needed to keep them from making the bad choices that has brought them to this point.
New behaviors must be learned for the purpose of making better choices and this can only come through a relationship built on trust and respect which takes time. It is only possible when they feel that someone cares about them and wants to help them, maybe for the first time in their lives. If this intervention is to be successful, much of it will be because they love their children.
to be continued. . .
Why Kid Fest: Coming Together In Love?
Teach us, Lord,
to do the little things
as though they were great
because of the majesty of Christ
who does them in us
and who lives our life.
Teach us to do the greatest things
as though they were little and easy
because of His omnipotence. Amen
(written by Blaise Pascal taken from 100 Prayers by the De La Salle Brothers)
When the intervention takes place in the life of this family in crisis, it is a time of extreme stress, painful learning, personal reflection and most of all change. When a child is removed from an already financially marginal home, most of the state funding is removed with them. Part of the written service agreement with Children’s Division is that they must have a job as well as make all the appointments required. These may include a therapist, a drug and alcohol program with their own counselors and support groups, a parenting teacher, the case worker, a public defender and supervised visitation with the children. It’s very difficult for the client to keep a job that will allow her or him to miss work so much of the time.
If the parent can’t meet what’s expected of them, as they watch their life gradually crash and burn, they may have to give up their children. Studies have shown that children who are removed from the home and not returned are impacted in negative ways.
It can be at this juncture where and when service programs are making an intervention that members of the community could become part of the solution.
In the Old Testament there is a reference in Deuteronomy 25 that refers to a battle with the Amelikites, some of Israel’s enemies in Exodus 17. God reminds them of how they failed to take care and protect the ones in the “hindmost” and consequently they were attacked. As I researched this reference I found that the tribe of Judah was to lead the Israelite warriors into battle and the tribe of Dan was in charge of taking care of those who lagged behind, probably the elderly and women and children who couldn’t keep up. In the Hebrew language there is a word that fits the painful cry for help as must have been the case in this incident. The word is “ze’ahkah”.
Ze’ahkah “The righteous cried, and Jehovah heard, and delivered them out of all their troubles.” Psalms 34:17
Isaiah speaks of Jesus Christ and how fair He will be with those who cry out for help because of their circumstances: Isaiah 11: 3-5 “He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will never judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay. He will defend the poor and the exploited. . . He will be clothed with fairness and truth.”
I am grateful to individuals, churches and civic organizations who in my experience have stepped in to help where they can. It can be taking the client to the many provider appointments. It can be having fundraisers to support non-profit programs like Christos House that do this work. It can be prayers for families who live on the fringes of our communities. The best outcome will happen as we all work together doing what we are able to do. “Teach us, Lord, to do the little things as though they were great. . . “
Many of the clients I work with were molested as children (more than 50%) and raised in a home of violence and drug abuse. The odds are so high against these individuals making a good parent and member of the community, that it is always refreshing to work with those who turn out well in spite of their parents. County law enforcement officials report 50-75% of the cases in their county are related to domestic violence. There is a great deal of negative fallout that goes beyond the dysfunctional family into the life of the community with statistics as high as this.
So now, why Kid Fest: Coming Together In Love? It began as a “little thing”. An annual three-hour event on a hot August afternoon in the Ozarks seems abysmally small in its impact it could have in the face of the extreme conditions that must exist in so many homes in our counties, but if we do this little thing like it’s a great thing, the outcome will be something beyond anything we ever imagined.
On August 24, 2013, every effort was taken to see that even the smallest detail was considered to make this a wonderful day for parents and their children coming from all over Texas and Wright counties and I’m sure beyond. Beautiful five-foot in diameter paper suns, two with our Kid Fest logo as the face of the sun, were hung in the dining room for the families to write their names on the multicolored rays. The concrete floors had been mopped and the kitchen and bathrooms clean and ready to go. Bright new tablecloths placed on all the tables the city crew had brought for us to use. Sweet home grown melons were cut and chilled and fresh pastry staged for serving. Cars began to fill the parking lot early and people respectfully lined up waiting. Many told me they had come early for the flag-raising. The motivation of all the providers which number around 150 who give up their Saturday to come in the heat can only be described as “love”. It quickly became an afternoon of fun and food. I watched a little girl reach into an ice chest filled with “push ups” ice cream and take one in each hand. No one told her to put one back, as it was okay- it’s Kid Fest! People in the lines for food and the games were patient even in the hot sun. When the event wound down to a close and everyone just faded away to their homes with their prizes and stories to tell, we looked around and found hardly any trash to pick up. To me, it was their silent way of saying “We noticed how much you care about us, Thank You”.
Several parents came up to me and other organizers to personally tell us how good this event is and how much they look forward to it every year. This “little thing” has become great because the majesty of Christ who lives through it is great. Kid Fest: Coming Together In Love is beginning to symbolize something very special in this area. Many are getting the strong message that God is love and he can be found anywhere his servants are at work doing small things well in his name for the greater good. Truly the outcome has been beyond anything that we who created this event could have ever imagined.
In our communities there are those who fit the “ze’akah” condition, who are lagging behind, many for reasons beyond their control – be it poverty, abuse, mental illness, disability, poor immature choices , an unfortunate chain of circumstances or just apathy in those who had an opportunity to help at a crucial point but chose not to. The most important part of God’s plan to help them is you and me. Each giving the sweet, living water as Christ did throughout His journey is “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” until He returns.
What a difference acts of love and kindness, small and great, make in our communities.