Sitting in the Lifeboat Surrounded by the Drowning, by April Gardner

Lately God’s been opening my eyes to the plight of many of His precious children around the world. In my human nature, it’s easy to focus entirely on their outward needs–food, shelter, and lots of hugs–that I forget about their spiritual need. But you know that saying about teaching a man to fish? Give a child Jesus and you give them hope for new life. Abundant life. Transformed life. Salvation is much more than a ticket into heaven. It’s having a constant, ever-faithful companion strong enough to carry you through any storm. It’s having the ultimate physician and counselor residing inside you, soothing and healing deep wounds. It’s knowing you belong, not because of anything you’ve done or might do, but because of what’s been done for you.

Today my dear friend, April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits and Senior Editor of Clash of the Titles, shares a moment when she caught a glimpse of God’s forever love for His children.

Sitting in the Lifeboat Surrounded by the Drowning, by April Gardner

Several summers ago, I took a missions trip to Romania with a team from my church. We went to conduct a Vacation Bible School in a local church for the children in the city of Oradea. Several days before VBS kicked off, we visited a massive city park where hundreds of poverty-stricken children played. 

The heat that day was overwhelming but more so was the country’s need for a Savior.  As we passed out fliers for the upcoming event, I began to realize how few fliers we had to distribute. The stack in my hand dwindled quickly as one child after another took their copy and ran with the exciting news to their parents. When only one blue paper remained, I scanned the park looking for who I might give it to. Children scampered all about me, hollering and laughing, oblivious to their need.
 
I felt myself in a lifeboat, surrounded by drowning people, but with only one life-preserver in my hand. How to choose? God loved them all, but which would He have me give this one paper to?
 
The truth that God drove home to me in that moment was this–There is a mighty big world out there in need, but I can’t reach them all. God’s given each of us a stack, and He expects us to do something with it. All we have to do is obey, passing out one paper at a time. 
 
The rest is up to Him. Aren’t you glad?
 
A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her children, while her husband serves a tour in the Middle East.  In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian. She is the best-selling author of Wounded Spirits. Contact April: aprilgardnerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com and visit her website to find out more about her and her writing.

The Beauty of the Broken

I was eight, maybe nine, and on my way to school when I noticed a woman taking her trash to the curb. She held the black bag in one hand and a walking stick in the other, scanning the ground with her “eyes” as she went. I ran to her side, ready to rescue this blind lady, little did I know that God had sent her that day to help me.

She smiled at me and nodded, then humbly allowed me to carry her trash to the curb. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was sitting at the breakfast bar in her kitchen that I realized the humbled love she showed to me that morning. As I watched her answer her phone, make popcorn in the micro (for me) and flitter around her kitchen with more ease than a sighted woman, I was slightly embarrassed by my offer to “help” her only days before. She let me help her not because she needed it, but because doing so would form a connection–a point of contact.

Before long, I was at her house nearly every day. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about. I do remember the popcorn, and the tremendous joy that filled her home. I remember watching her husband and son very closely, curious by their rather silly antics and the ease with which they interacted. But what I remember most was the overwhelming sense of being loved and accepted as day after day Mr. and Mrs. Neighborhood (my name for her and her husband) showed me love.

She died a few years later, not knowing how the story would end–not knowing the chain of events her allowing me to carry her garbage started, not knowing the impact those afternoons had on me. She didn’t understand fully until she got to heaven, and although I don’t believe God caused her blindness, (it was the result of a stroke), I know He used  it to bring her and I together. And through her, I got a taste of the love of Christ.

I wonder if she were standing on the edge of eternity, able to see into the abyss, and asked to choose between her sight or my salvation, I wonder what she would have chosen. Actually, I know what she would have chosen. She showed me daily.

But even now, Mrs. Neighborhood’s story doesn’t end. Every time I write, every time I pray, every time I cuddle up with my daughter, a Bible spread between us, we are seeing the fruits of her service (and other amazing women God placed in my path as I was growing up.)

And it all started because she let a little girl help her.

I thought of her this morning during church as I read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-7

1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.

Her visits with me were not without results. The results just wouldn’t be seen until many years later, long after she’d passed. And she wasn’t concerned with the praise of men. To the contrary, she humbled herself and allowed a young child to help her.

Her life was the very first domino in a beautifully intertwined display, except the story really began long before then, with another domino set in motion in her life, and the domino set in motion in the life that loved on her. Each life, each domino, was but a tiny, yet powerful, part of a glorious, life-saving story that will one-day unfold before us. When we stand in God’s presence, surrounded by an innumerable family of believers, each one but another domino that set into motion another chain, everything will all make sense and all we’ll be able to say is, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelations 7:12 NIV)