A few weeks ago I asked a friend to help me find a family in Temple that wouldn't be able to afford Thanksgiving and I wanted to take them their Thanksgiving meal. He put me in touch with a high school teacher who knew of a student whose family would be in need of that. His name was Justin. He lives with his mother, a step-father and a sibling. Today, Nate, me and our girls took Justin's family their Thanksgiving meal.
A few days ago, when I received their address, I recognized the name of the motel and remembered exactly which one it was. I remember driving by there many times while being in high school in Temple and for some reason, I remember it always depressed me when I thought of people living there. It's just a run down old motel.
When we pulled up today, there were several people standing around outside their doors, talking, drinking and "shooting the shit", I guess you could say. One of those people was the mother of Justin. She took us upstairs and I went through all of the grocery bags with her while Nate talked to a young teen, holding her baby.
It was a very small hotel room. There were two beds, piled full of just "stuff". There was only a small trail where you could walk through the room. On each side of the trail were just...things. Boxes, old clothes, old food, trash, groceries that had gone bad. Some of these things reached the ceiling. I proceeded to step in and show the mom what all I had gotten them for dinner. She seemed very grateful and the teenager with her son, Alex, was very sweet and talked to us for just a brief second.
We told them Happy Thanksgiving and left them to eat their meal. I'm not quite sure what came over me. I have seen poverty. I have seen poor living conditions. I am very aware that this goes on everywhere. But for some reason, I hadn't even gotten to the car before I began to sob. My heart was so broken. Broken for the family of four who live in this 400 square foot motel room in just two beds. Broken for the high school boy who has probably never been able to bring a friend "home" to play or hang out. Broken that there are children who live in those conditions. Broken at how overwhelming it becomes to try to think of how to begin to change some of that. Broken for myself who isn't satisfied sometimes with my beautiful 3 bedroom home in Central Austin. It isn't big enough, attractive enough, new enough. It needs to be painted. I need a new couch. I wish we had nicer furniture in our bedroom. My house is beautiful and today I was ashamed of myself that I ever feel anything but thankful for how God has blessed our family.
I continued to sob the whole way home. Again, I'm not completely sure why but I couldn't gain my composure. It just hit me really hard. No one really said a word the whole way home and then as we pulled up to have Thanksgiving with my family, Nate said we were going to pray for their family. He led us in prayer and I pulled myself together and we went inside.
I still haven't really gotten over it yet. I feel heavy and sad. I'm not sure exactly what all God is trying to teach me in this. Maybe it's just to be thankful...I feel it's something more.
Monday, November 2, 2009
We drove into the driveway after Church and lunch yesterday and this was on our front door. Nate loves to brag about people in our community who are missional but would never brag on himself, so I'm going to.
Nate is the Director of Missional Community at Austin City Life and really teaches that being "missional" isn't only about going overseas and being a missionary but it's about being on mission in your own family, neighborhood and city. He loves to report stories back to Jonathan (ACL pastor)when he finds himself proud of someone in our city group who has touched, impacted or helped someone in the neighborhood or the city of Austin. Here are a few really cool stories he's gotten to share about people in our community who have lived out the gospel in a missional way, locally:
-We had a single mom, who doesn't go to ACL, move into our neighborhood and people from our city group reached out to her, having never met her, buying her flowers, a candle, and a cake. Nate even showed up and spent the whole day helping her move in.
-We have a girl in our group who works in a liquor store and who has connected with some of the every day regulars who come in to get their daily pint of vodka. She spent time talking with one and simply asked her her name and was kind to her. The woman showed up hours later with her pet that she wanted to show off. You could tell it made a huge impact on her that someone cared enough to talk to her about her kids and ask her what her name was.
-We have one family in our group who adopted two local children who were in the foster care system. One of the greatest examples of Christ's love for us.
-A group just did a makeover on the teen therapy room at Safeplace here in Austin. Safeplace is a local non-profit that houses women and their children who have fled from sexual and domestic violence. See the pictures here.
-A couple in our Church is hosting a garage sale and here is their blurb about it on facebook:
"Yard Sale Fundraiser benefiting Operation Turkey sponsored by Austin City Life Church, and hosted by The Nixons. Operation Turkey is an organization that provides a full Thanksgiving Meal to homeless families on Thanksgiving Day; as well as provide for many of their other needs.
Please consider cleaning out a closet, or your pantry and donating some of the items listed on the flyer. You can bring stuff over any time - DAY or NIGHT!
It will be an awesome morning as we pull together to serve the needs of our city. And please invite anyone and everyone to this event!
For info about Austin City Life (the best church ever), visit www.austincitylife.org
For info about Operation Turkey, visit www.operationturkey.com"
-We hosted a "neighbor night" at our house and had all of our neighbors over for pizza and beer. Since then, we have still made it a point to hang out with and love on our neighbors. In fact, one couple across the street, Bridgette and Chele, are moving and told me that when they made their "pros and cons list", we were the top thing on their pro's list. Wow...I don't think I've ever been on the top of anyone's pro's list.
-We visit this retirement home each month and spend time with the residents.
Austin City Life is all about these little things and I wish I could tell every encouraging story but there are just so many, you'd be reading until midnight.
Things like this sign just prove that showing Jesus' love in even very small ways, without an agenda, means a lot to people.
Check out this blog post written by Jonathan Dodson that tells you how to be missional in your every day life.
Here's to more Christians hanging with non-Christians.