You can read the start of this story here.
That woman and her son first came to our door on September 1st. It is now the 28th. We spent three days trying to help them, and during those days, I shed many tears over how our society, government agencies and organized church have come to handle such urgent needs today. Phone call after phone call, places were full, other numbers were given to call. So we called; we were put on waiting lists, and it was an extremely frustrating experience. Hot-lines led to new numbers. New numbers led to hot-lines. Lines led us right back to where we began. Our starting point.
I cried out to God, “How have we come to this?”
I heard one thing and one thing repeatedly: “Love your neighbor.”
This led to my expressing to God my fears, questions, and feelings of inadequacy.
His response was simple. Clear. Consistent.
Love your neighbor.
LOVE your neighbor.
Love YOUR neighbor.
Love your NEIGHBOR.
Over the next days, we had a birthday dinner for them.
We loaded them up with clothes.
From our closets.
We placed them in a safe place for three days. After which, we were able to get them to be with some of their family members. This included a trip to the park to talk/play/pray, and a few more van rides.
Twice a week, Mike began giving anger management time and attention to the boy.
Relationships started to form.
Then on this Thursday afternoon, they again came to our door, now kicked out of the family members’ house where they had been staying.
Addiction and Abuse run DEEP. When a generational abuse pattern goes back as far as you can name names, it is a hard mountain to climb to UN-learn such animalistic, reactionary, selfish, brute behavior.
I want to take all of them—every family member (the grandmother, the mother, the father, the cousins, all of them)—and say, “Don’t hit!”
“Quit cussing out each other!”
“Don’t be selfish!”
But alas—here they were, and inappropriate impulses had thrown them again into the street. . . and to our door.
Mike and I sat outside with them by the pond while a prestigious Classical Education group was using the meeting spaces inside the home for the week. The mom was using my phone to call friends, trying to bum a place to go for the night. The boy chased her around, cussing. She kept swatting at him, saying, “I’m gonna kick your A**!”
He plopped himself on a stump at the water’s edge, kicking his flip-flops along the top of the pond. He finally softened as he sat with a stick, making designs, splashes and ripples. I parked an outdoor chair right behind him. (You see, I had inched my way closer, and now he could either land himself in the water, or have to walk straight into me if he tried to run off.)
Very gently I spoke, “Do you know what I see when I look at you?”
“I see a handsome young man who is extremely smart. You keep cussing out your mom about her friends because you know as well as I do that she desperately needs new ones. You are very angry, and if I had your life, I’d be angry too…”
I asked him to tell me about these men that they stay with, and how he feels when he’s there. I was NOT at all happy with the brief responses he shared.
“You know, there are people here who want to help your mom. There are people who want to help you. You are smart, and it sounds like you don’t believe your mom and her friends and family members should be treating each other the way they do. Mike and I don’t hit our kids and our kids don’t hit each other. They don’t hit us either. Not even when we’re mad or when we don’t get what we want. Our children don’t even know the cuss words that you say. We don’t talk to them like that, and they don’t talk to each other that way.”
“Do you know what else I see when I look at you? The mom in me wants to offer for you to stay with us for a while while your mom figures some things out. But the mom in me also has to protect my kids, and I would never want you hurting them in any way. Ever. And right now, I don’t know that you are able to control yourself.”
His breathing calmed and he listened intently. Curious.
“I hope that you will believe that Mr. Mike and I would never ever hurt you. Ever. We hope to be able to help you. There is a reason why we know you, and why you keep coming here. And we’ll be here when your mom is ready, or when YOU are ready to trust us. And when your mom is ready to let go of the friends that put cigarette butts out on her arms, and find real friends who will actually love and care for her, then she knows that there are people here, lots of people, ready to help her.”
They came inside to use the bathroom before Mike drove them to the place that she had lined up for them to go for the night. I ended up asking the boy if he was hungry, and then watched him completely inhale the food that I gave him, chewing it like a small animal.
As I had to watch them ride away to who-knows-what, my heart broke into a few more pieces, because this kid has managed to work his way into my heart (up close and personal time will do that you know).
I was longing for the day when we can have the small yurts and “tiny houses” right here on the land, to offer short-term stays for people who have no where to go. Yes, we want to offer retreat spaces, but we also need one or two of them that require low-cost clean-up, so that offering some help to a neighbor who may just trash it at first, is a viable option. (After taking in an alcoholic for a while, and seeing how this anger-fit boy left the safe place at the start of the month, we are learning lessons and filing the information!)
So here is the question:
Who is really helping people like this? How DO we “love our neighbor?”
Offering a service to sit in? Will that help? Perhaps.
Getting a bag of food from the government? Sure, for a bit, until they are hungry again.
What would YOU do if such a neighbor knocked on YOUR door?
All around us live people whose LIFE TOOLS are DEPLETED.
People will applaud missionaries who go to other countries to offer what needs to be being offered right here. Right now.
Looking away is only causing the problems to grow.
Do you know what has happened in this little group of people on High Point Road just this week?
* A homeless man was given water-proof boots, many meals, and a family’s regular time and attention.
* A family in financial desperation was given money, and in return, they ended up being able to help themselves AND 2 or 3 other families!
* We have had active school hours, mentoring the home education approach with two other families.
* Much-needed counseling has been given free of charge, as have aroma touch therapy and prayer over people with both physical and emotional illnesses.
* There have been bible studies, and an exceptional educational organization used the property for their retreat/planning purposes.
* Three young men in their 20s, facing crossroad decisions were invested into over meals or sports.
* There are two farmers right now from the community using land in the back for farm animals, and people have come and gone throughout the week to fish or to walk along the paths with friends.
We had dinner last night with a family that is on this journey with us, and they acknowledged, “It really is happening, isn’t it?”
Yes, “it” is.
Ministry, in its simplest form is “Love your neighbor,” and “it” is happening.
Mike and I are not doing this alone. Those who are looking for ways to love and serve in real and really messy “missionary right at home” ways are in and out, willingly participating in loving the community right here, and around the Triad… both inside… and out… of… their… own… homes.
When we gather on Sundays as a group, it is simply to maintain the focus, express our gratitude to the Lord, and pray for each other. We know that it is the Holy Spirit that will awaken lives, not us. Therefore, we open the Bible with purpose. We read the Word of God, but we don’t debate. We encourage each other, and often accept each other in spite of everything rather than because of anything! There is no “show.” It is simple, but it is together.
We are members of a team, an identity known as “the Church,” and as members of that team, we give of ourselves to loving people by offering an unconditional flood of acceptance, kindness, and patience. Like that image above, sometimes it feels like a never-ending circle that takes you back to where you began.
We don’t always get it right or do it well, so we have learned this: individually, we all grow weary in offering unconditional love. Therefore, loving hard to love people is more like a relay race, and as we continually pass the baton one to another, those who need it cannot easily escape the authentic love of Christ in us, the Church.
All the while, the landowner’s foreclosure is still impending and we cannot take over ownership with the upside-down nature of the money owed on the land. Our lease agreement was on a 3-5 year plan, and his situation has sped up the need for the sale. So, “For Sale” signs mark the lots, but no one is coming to look.
Last week, the appraiser called this property, “No Man’s Land” when we tried to have the place appraised to see the actual current value. If you want to know what he meant by that, contact me, and I’ll tell you.
My response in hearing that phrase: He’s right. It is no man’s.
In fact, how wonderful would it be for it to always be no man’s!
Therefore, I just pray that the God Who made it—The One Who owns it and purposed it—will continue to use it, making the most of Himself in the rebuilding of lives and homes.
So we pray, and we continue to “Lead with Love” while we are here, thankful for every single day given us with which to serve in and through Cre8 Home on “Wide Open Acres.”
Thanks for reading!
Please pray as you feel led. We are overflowing with gratitude.