Before I share another wonderful Reach Out to Live Out post, I’d love to tell you more about this campaign, how God sparked it, and how He reached out to me. In my teen and early adult years, I imagine many thought I was a lost cause. But not God. And through the consistent love of others, He showed me His unfathomable, unending, healing love. Visit Living Joyfully Free to listen to my interview with Lisa Buffaloe.
Further expanding on this idea of reaching out–wherever we’re at, at whatever phase we’re in, pop by Internet Cafe Devotions where I talk about our shelf-lives.
Today’s post comes from a fellow Jewels of Encouragement writer, Sherry Castelluccio. She didn’t want to go. Spend an evening with alcoholics and addicts? But God nudged her forward, pouring His love through her. (Because He didn’t see addicts. He saw hurting hearts desperately in need of a Savior. May He open our eyes to see the same. )
Thrust in the Spotlight by Sherry Castelluccio
I was not exactly excited when we started God’s Helping Hands ministry at our church. The prospect of giving large quantities of food and clothing to low-income families made me uncomfortable. Most of these people were drug addicts or alcoholics or both. Perhaps it was the fear of the unknown or even a sad case of snobbery that caused my trepidation. Home was safe; church with people who were vastly different from me, not so much. I knew that God wanted to use me. The only way to do that was to humble myself and allow Him to work through my bad attitude. One day I finally stepped outside of my comfort zone and I was never the same again.
My odyssey began at 9:30 on a Thursday morning. I arrived and greeted three volunteers who were swiftly filling plastic produce bags with whole loaves of bread, pastries, and desserts. I donned a pair of gloves and made myself useful. At about 11am the real food arrived. Two four wheel drive pickup trucks loaded to the ground with produce, meat, and more bread backed into our single door entrance. With the help of ten more volunteers we filled 60 paper bags of food to be distributed later that night. We would expect to give away every single bag plus about ten extras. As I rubbed my tired shoulders that first afternoon, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would see later that night.
Our guests seemed to arrive as grudgingly as I did. Their sour expressions and stiff body language revealed everything I felt inside. They were given a number and told that the bags would be distributed after the short sermon. If they chose not to attend church, they were welcome to come back in thirty minutes. Numbers were called and food was collected without incident. Little conversation was made and eye contact was rare. Eventually I was asked if I would like to participate in the worship part of the service. I consented despite my overwhelming stage fright. I had never sung in front of so many people in my life and knew this was a challenge I would have to face head-on. To say I was daunted was an understatement. After a few weeks I began to notice something extraordinary.
The change was gradual but obvious. I began to see life behind tired eyes. Stiff, stoic expressions slowly gave way to smiles and softened limbs. Crossed arms began to open and receive the hugs that were offered. Some were even returned. My heart began to thaw as I got to know these people and listen to their stories. Were they really so much different than I? At the core of every person lies an intense need to simply be loved. As I shared my gifts with this community I was humbled by their honesty, courage, and strength. I was moved to tears by our mutual acceptance of each other and the love that grows stronger all the time. Today I cannot imagine a week without a Thursday night church service. The prospect of rubbing shoulders with real, genuine people is too tempting to resist.
Sherry is a stay at home mom, associate pastor’s wife, and aspiring freelance author. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading and singing. She has been a volunteer contributor for online publications Jewels of Encouragement, Faithwriters, and the CypressTimes.com. Paid credits include the Antioch Press and EverydayChristian.com.
Sherry’s blog, Embattled Warrior (www.fightingvictorious.blogspot.com.) is taking a short hiatus but should be back up and running soon.
It’s easy to get stuck on the exterior–the scowls, crossed arms, hostile eyes–protective barriers erected by those who have been beaten down and deeply wounded. But God sees past the rough exterior to the hurting heart beneath. Today, I challenge you (and myself) to do the same.
Who might God be calling you to love today? Can you share a time when He shattered your initial perceptions by unveiling a deep need hidden behind what you thought was a hardened heart? Tell us about it.
I want to give a shout-out to our June donors:
Sandra Robbins with Dangerous Reunion, Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Run and the Promise of Deer Run, Sherri Johnson with ebook To Dance Once More, Jerri Ledford with ebook Biloxi Sunrise, and Shannon Taylor Vannatter with Rodeo Hero.
Do you have a reach out story to share? Or something you’d like to donate to a future gift basket? Send me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.