Over the past 10 days or so, I’ve been blessed to see God move in a way that I’ve found to be both inspiring and challenging.
On December 7th, we had a few subcontractors show up to do some remodeling work in our home that we had been anticipating for quite a while.
As you might expect, it wasn’t long before some conversations began to transpire between the workers and Carol and me regarding a little bit about ourselves, our background and what we have given our lives to over the past many years. Normally, when I share that I am a pastor it can have one of two responses: either people are interested and ask further questions, or they just say okay… nice to know, and that’s the end of the conversation.
In this case, the head of the crew didn’t say a whole lot until several hours later when he said “I wonder if I could ask you a few questions about the Bible?” He had questions about whether or not the Bible could be trusted and if it was the “work of men” or actually something “given by God.” This led to a couple of interesting conversations but essentially revealed that though he was interested in the Bible, he had never really understood what he was reading and had not been encouraged to do so in his church upbringing days a couple of decades earlier.
That evening, I sent my new friend home with a very readable version of the Bible in more contemporary language and challenged him to simply start by reading it in a version that he could understand, beginning with the gospel of Matthew.
I came to find out that this young man was the father of one 18 month old boy and had serious questions about God Himself and what it meant to know Him because this was something he had not understood as he was growing up.
Over the next couple days, and these were not long extensive conversations but 10 or 15 minutes little “sidebar” exchanges as he was working while managing the rest of the team. What did come out was how very difficult a life he had had growing up and the many mistakes he felt he had made as a young person, which only began to get corrected when his father, who had separated from his mother, had him move into his home and provided a little structure. Following that season, he went into military service for a few years and that added a great deal of discipline and structure to his life which had been missing, but no real deep spiritual values.
After the military, he returned to Pittsburgh and had some unresolved issues of his own, but at the same time grew increasingly passionate about helping young people in the city who had been been like him in earlier years; somewhat wild and unrestrained and getting in and out of trouble lots of different times.
He gave himself for almost seven years to engaging with these students, meeting with those who were suffering from addiction problems and trying his best to relate hope to them despite the fact that he was still wrestling with his own issues.
It took a few years for him to come to grips with his own inconsistencies and acknowledge his own vulnerability to the very things that he was trying to help other young people to stay away from. He took the step of going into an AA program that once again helped provide him with a very clear pathway to becoming free from addictive habits and once again restore his integrity between what he said to others and what he did for himself. This was a huge step and began to soften his heart toward something more.
In an undeniable way, I know the Lord sent him to our house for this project when it could have been someone entirely different. We have continued to have conversations even since the job has been completed and I believe we will continue to do so as he discovers the true, personal God as revealed in Jesus, his higher power.
However, I saw something break open in his heart when he asked me directly over the weekend if I knew of any family in the city of Pittsburgh that could use some help and a blessing at Christmas time. He told me that he didn’t have a lot of money but he would ask some of his coworkers to help and wanted to make Christmas special for someone who was truly in need. (He mentioned that he knew what it was like to have nothing and to be living in other people’s homes for a season in his life and how much he missed that Christmas blessing that everyone wants to share.)
With the encouragement and specific help from Bryan McCabe and some of his LAMP connections, we identified a family consisting of a single mom who cleans offices 10 hours a day and supports five children on her own. She identified some simple things that each of her children were dreaming about for Christmas.
My new friend undertook to talk to his business co-workers and some other friends and are now on schedule to meet the needs of each one of the children and have an added blessing of a generous gift to the mother herself to help to continue to navigate through the hardship of not having a home or a place of their own.
To see his excitement about making a difference in one family and to recognize that it’s just a part of how this blessing will affect the lives of a very needy family striving to stay together in these difficult days has captured the spirit of Christmas for me in a very personal and inspiring way.
My new friend wants no credit and really doesn’t even want the mom to know anything about him except that he cares about her and her five children. He wants the thanks and the glory to go to God and for this woman and her family to know that they are loved.
It’s been a wonderful thing to watch unfold and I’m so thankful for everyone who’s helped to make it come to pass.
Never underestimate how one connection can grow into a life-changing event!