Reach Out Recap

I’ve enjoyed reading the various “Reach Out” stories posted this month, and each one inspired or challenged me for different reasons.

Here’s what I learned:

Mary Ellis reminded me to focus on the human element–to be careful not to allow the task to overshadow the person I’m doing the task for. This is true in all areas of life, isn’t it? So often, we can begin a project as an act of love only to become consumed by the project itself. But what people need most is time–human connection.

Here’s a snippet of her story: “But most of all, we prayed with them, listened to them, and demonstrated lessons taught by the Savior. Several of them joined our church afterwards. What did I gain from the experience? There, but for the grace of God go I. These people were no different from you or me. Loss of employment or a serious illness could place any of us into dire straits. I get down on my knees each night and ….” (Read the rest here)

Mary hinted at numerous truths in her story. I’d be curious to know what you gleaned from it.

In Love For a Felon by Kenneth W. Bangs, I was reminded of the importance of maintaining an authentic welcome mat, and of staying alert for divine appointments. God’s timing is always perfect, and He never wastes a moment. May we, as His children, never close a door He’s opened nor walk away from a wounded soul.

Here’s a blip of Kenneth’s story: “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. …” (You can read the rest here.)

I’d love to hear how Kenneth’s story impacted you.

Cara Putman’s Reach Out story reminded me that God is ALWAYS there, especially during the storms in life. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Jesus with skin on.” God’s love is never-ending, always flowing, but often, it comes to us through others. May we, as God’s children, daily be conduits of God’s love as we reach out to the hurting.

Here’s a snippet of her story: “After the tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, last year, I’ve been burdened by their horrific paths of destruction. I first asked God what I could do when I saw the horrific images of Alabama. Then the weekend storms hit Joplin. A third of the town…gone.

It’s almost too much to fathom.

But the burden wouldn’t leave.” (Read the rest here.)

What impacted you most in Cara’s story?

Our final story this month comes from Ada Brownell. This one was very dear to my heart as I’m passionate about reaching out to the next generation. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s often said this current generation is the “unloved generation.” Our youth are craving adult interaction, acceptance, role models, unconditional love. It’s easy to point fingers and complain about “how things are,” but love goes a bit deeper and focuses on how things could be. Love looks past the behavior to the hurting heart beneath.

Here’s part of Ada’s story: “According to the last statistics I gathered, five million elementary-age U.S. children grow up with no supervision after school. Twenty-two million adolescents are unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. on a typical day, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Child Care Bureau.” (Read the rest here.)

What impacted you most about Ada’s story?

More importantly, how have these stories motivated you to reach out this month? What have you done to actively share the love of Christ? Share it here so we can be motivated to do the same and so we can rejoice at the giver of love, Jesus Christ, who stirs us to act according to His will.

Once again, I want to give a loud shout-out to April’s reach out donors!

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.)

Come back Thursday to see who won the gift basket and give-away.

(If you have a reach out story to share, send it to jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.)

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.)