Everyday Illustrations of Creative Compassion
- 2003 11 Feb
Part Two of Three
We can learn from Mother Teresa's example as well as her words. While love in action can mean opening a home for the impoverished in India or building an orphanage in Guatemala, it can also mean volunteering at a local hospital or helping to organize cans at a local food bank. It can mean taking a meal to a new mother or tutoring a child at the elementary school down the street.
Each of these actions is important, and each is needed. Every act of love, great or small, noticed or unnoticed, makes a positive impact in the world. Even if no one sees the love and kindness we show to others, God sees, and he knows that we are obeying his command to love our neighbor.
Let me share with you some stories of a few modern-day "Samaritans." You probably haven't heard of any of these people. They're not famous, but they're sincere. They lead full and busy lives, just like you and me. I pray that their stories encourage and inspire you.
Feeding the homeless. Rip Parker rarely misses a day. Every weekday, every weekend, Rip drives his van packed with sandwiches and water to feed the homeless men and women in downtown Dallas. Cheryl Reinhart, a loving mother and nurse practitioner, joyfully serves with Rip once a month. She also volunteers at least once a week at the Dallas Life Foundation (a homeless shelter), helping to give medical exams to the homeless. Cheryl has known her share of heartache; her teenage son was tragically killed in a car accident. Yet she offers help, love, and hope to others, saying, "We are all put on the earth for something beyond ourselves."
..."And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42).
Adopting girls. Lance and Carol Wagers realized their life was in for a change, but they didn't realize how big the change would be. In their early fifties and after 29 years of running a huge cheerleading company, they felt God call them into semiretirement. Since they had no children, they felt their life was an open book, and they were excited to see what story God would write on the rest of their lives.
On a mission trip down the Amazon River in Brazil, they encountered a poor family with nine children. Before they left the family's village, the mother came to Lance and Carol and asked if they would take her two youngest daughters back to the United States with them. She had been praying for years for a Christian family to adopt her daughters, then ten and eleven years old. She wanted the girls to get away from their difficult environment and have an opportunity for a better life. Hearing very clearly God's call to them, the Wagers obeyed. They eventually adopted Leni and Loraine and became an instant family with teenagers.
..."Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).
Visiting those in prison. "Nothing can prepare you perfectly for ministry to death row inmates," says army major Kathryn Cox. Kathryn has been ministering to inmates on "The Row" and their families since 1986. While her undergraduate degrees in psychology and journalism and her master's degree in criminal justice are helpful as she coordinates Bible correspondence courses for 30,000 inmates through the army's Texas division, she believes God developed a strong spirit of compassion and understanding in her for this special ministry. She says that everything she has witnessed through her ministry "attests mightily to a salvation that can penetrate any locked door."
..."Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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, 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" (Matthew 25:34-36).
Reaching children with HIV. Beth Dykhuizen loves children. As the mother of four, she is devoted to serving her family and raising her kids to be fine Christian young people. Early on, Beth learned how painful it is to see innocent children suffer. Her own son, Kurt, was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, which meant he had numerous birth defects and required over 18 surgeries. Watching her son go through these physical challenges drew Beth's heart to other hurting children.
"People used to tell me that I am very sensitive to other people's needs," Beth says. "But it made me think, what am I doing with it? I finally realized that the sensitivity was not beneficial unless I acted upon it. When I would see suffering in this world, I would question why God would allow it. But then I realized that God had made me to reach out, touch the suffering, and show them his love."
As a member of her church's missions committee, Beth sought out ministries in need of volunteers and came across an organization that helps children and their families impacted by HIV. Beth knew immediately that this was where she wanted to serve. She started taking care of the babies-loving them, feeding them, and changing their diapers. Her daughter Connie began to help too. Because her own son had such loving support at her home, her heart went out to those children who did not have such comfort.
..."I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
Teaching generations. Jan Gilliland earned her masters of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at a time when few women pursued advanced degrees. She planned to go away to the mission field but found her mission was in her own home. Having successfully raised four children, she now pours her talents into the lives of her grandchildren and the community around her.
Every summer she organizes a Cuzzins Camp for her grandchildren who are five years of age and up. The camp creatively centers on a different biblical theme each year, giving Jan the opportunity to pour God's Word into generation after generation. Her daughter Leslie says this about her: "Mom is always doing something for someone else. I remember hitting the 'sophomore slump' at Baylor. She listened patiently and then asked me, 'What are you doing for other people?' That truly is the theme of her life."
..."Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
Showing mercy to many. Probably one of the most compassionate people I know is Karen McFarland. Her life is a picture of devotion to God and commitment to serve others with his love. A wonderful mother, she serves at her kids' school. She faithfully feeds the homeless once a month. She organizes mission opportunities at our church, so that many willing hearts can reach out to the community in Christ's love. She opens her home for friends, family, meetings, and gatherings. Karen also cares for her elderly mother-in-law, who lives in a retirement community nearby. Karen is a blessing to others not only for her acts of kindness, but also for her mind of mercy that is always thinking of others.
..."Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:5-7 nkjv).
God has a gift he wants to give to the world through each of us, and that gift is love. But as we can see from these examples, love has many faces. It displays itself uniquely in and through each individual life. Colossians 3:12 tells us, "Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (nlt). The form each of these pieces of God's wardrobe takes will be different on different individuals. But one thing is constant: When we clothe ourselves with these things, God's love becomes visible to everyone around us.
Editor's Note: This is the second of three excerpts taken from The Power of a Postive Woman. Part Three will be published next Tuesday. Click here to read Part One.
Exerpted with permission from The Power of a Positive Woman. (c)2002 by Karol Ladd. Howard Publishing Co. Inc., West Monroe, La.
Read an interview with Karol Ladd here.