Love For a Felon

When I was a kid, while walking to and from school, I’d see signs showing which homes were “safe houses.” Should trouble ever arise, I knew where I could go. The welcome mat on these doorsteps meant exactly what it said.

Although safe houses still exist, it seems many have been replaced by no trespassing signs as we isolate ourselves further and further from one another. But as followers of Christ, I believe our homes should extend a loud and hearty welcome. You never know when God will use you to be a beacon of love and hope to one of His broken children.

Today’s post comes from Kenneth W. Bangs, a man who extended a welcome instead of a barrier, and in doing so, spoke love and acceptance into two people’s lives.

***

Herschel lived down the road. First time I saw him he was sitting on his porch. I realized we had a new neighbor so I stopped to say hey. He stood as I walked up…tall and thin with a demeanor that told me he had done time. I shook his hand, chatted a minute…could tell he was really uncomfortable so I drove on.

Some months later I was on a tractor and saw him pull up. He shuffled over, head down and said, “Boss would it be ok if I brought my grandson over to fish in your ponds?” I told him sure and he said, “You know I done some time.”

“I know,” I said.

“It was over dope and it was hard time because I acted the fool in the joint.” He looked up at me and said, “You’re police aren’t you?”

“Used to be.”

He nodded and started talking…told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so many times before…so hard, so violent. I prayed with him and told him to enjoy the fishing. He brought his grandson by several times and then stopped. I got a call from a local pastor. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and asked if we could help. Of course we did. I talked with him from time to time, watched as the disease consumed him. Then he was gone. I saw that little grandson as I drove past the other day sitting on the porch steps with his face in his hands. He loved his grandfather and his grandfather loved him…love – so important to give and receive…it lives on long after we’re gone…

***

Stop for a moment and consider the chain events that occurred because Kenneth extended a hearty welcome and created a bridge instead of a barrier. For a moment, consider the impact Kenneth’s choice had on the grandson. Consider the memories, the precious moments, Kenneth’s pond allowed the boy and his grandfather to share.

Now, consider the impact this had on the shame-filled man–the message of love, grace, and forgiveness Kenneth’s actions revealed.

Powerful messages.

But the blessing wasn’t done. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God brought this man to Kenneth’s pond prior to the man’s bout with cancer. God’s timing is perfect. By acting in love and obedience, Kenneth built a bridge that allowed him to speak love, hope, and truth into this man’s life when he needed it most.

Consider also the long-term impact each pond visit had on this precious child. I’ve often shared stories of the countless Christians God placed in my path when I was a child. (Read more here.) As an adult, when I looked back over each encounter, I realized it was God loving me through them. I realized, because of the love poured out through His children, that God had never left my side.

Powerful messages provided by such a simple act of love.

Who can you love on today? And how authentic is your welcome mat?

I’d love to hear from you. Have you, like the precious child in our story, experienced God’s love and grace through the actions of another? Or like Kenneth, have you extended a welcome and seen it blossom into something more–something of eternal value?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “reach out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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5 thoughts on “Love For a Felon

  1. My wife and I extended God’s love to my mom and my sister when we visited Hong Kong last summer. They haven’t received Christ yet, but I can tell from my sister’s emails and phone conversations that they slowly opened their hearts to the word of God. God has His own timing. What we have to do is to pray and wait.

  2. Pingback: Reach Out Recap « Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud

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