As part of our all day staff gathering, we took turns affirming each other in the gifts that we see in each other. It can be humbling to listen without responding when others say really nice things about you. In my case, I wonder if it’s me they’re talking about or some other Julie I have never met. But this is not about me!
We didn’t get around to everyone – we’ll finish that at another staff meeting next week – but we did get to Nancy. And what I wanted to affirm to everyone else about Nancy is that she has never met a stranger. Friday afternoons here at West Hills Church can be very quiet, but I can almost guarantee that Jesus will walk in the door in those quiet times and find Nancy. And she always recognizes him and strikes up a conversation. You should see this. It’s amazing!
Today being Friday, and quiet, well…Jesus walked in again.
The phone had just rung and Nancy answered it at her desk just as the doorbell rang, so she hit the key button on the door security system and let him in. This time, he was a she and her name was Rebecca.
She needed help. She wasn’t hungry or in need of clothing or a drink of water, and being as how she was now in the church building, she didn’t need a visit in prison either. Those are things we read about in Matthew 25. “When did I see you, Lord?” The sheep, the goats…you know the story.
She did need help in another way. She needed $86 to make up the difference between what she had in her hand and what it was going to cost to register her car at the DMV. And here was Nancy, listening to Rebecca, and seeing her own daughter sitting there.
Rebecca lives by herself, with just her dog for company. Her only income is from Social Security, just like Nancy’s daughter. Such a little bit, $721 per month (just like Nancy’s daughter), to take care of rent, food, heat, car payment. And Rebecca showed Nancy the paperwork on all this to make her point. She had $69 in her hand and she needed $86 more to make up the $155 needed at the DMV. Her car was her lifeline and she just couldn’t lose it or be without it. So she did what she needed to do: in her humanity and humility she reached out in need to the one place her heart told her she would find what she needed and that happened to be our church and there was Nancy to listen.
Nancy sat down and listened to her story and then gave her the $26 she had in purse. (When did I do this for you Lord? “I tell you the truth, whenever you did this for one of the least of my family, you did it for me.”)
And then I happened by and honestly, I was going to walk right by. But then another image flashed through my brain: Katie.
Katie is Katie Davis and about three years ago our staff read her book, “Kisses from Katie.” It tells the story of Katie going to Uganda on a summer mission trip and having her heart completely consumed by the orphans who live there in uncountable numbers. Katie went back, adopted more than a dozen as her own children while still under the age of 21 herself, and founded Amazima Ministries. It’s a great story. You can read more about it here:
The big lesson I learned from Katie in that book was this: you can’t love everyone who needs to be loved. But you can love the one in front of you at any given moment with the love of Christ. When did I see you hungry? I was right in front of you. And my name is Rebecca.
So Nancy introduced me to Rebecca and I heard her story, too. And now she had $95 in her hand. I did the math quickly in my head (love numbers!) and deduced that she still needed $60. I had $60 in my wallet today that I did not have yesterday. And now I know why it was there. It was there for Jesus/Rebecca. When did I see you needed to register your car? (That’s the Matthew 25 paraphrase.)
Open your hands. Release what’s there. I will guarantee you that as fast as you think you are emptying them, they will be refilled in ways you can’t imagine. You will get the privilege of holding Jesus in your arms, praying for a safe journey to the DMV and knowing that at least for this day, you loved him in the only way he asked of you.
And if it’s a quiet Friday afternoon, you might just get to meet him with Nancy, who has never met a stranger because she knows them all by name.