My dad is a pastor, so I’ve heard a lot of sermons. I’ve heard sermons that motivate, sermons that convict, sermons that I’ve sworn were written and preached straight to me. And then there have been those sermons that have lulled me to sleep. It seems I’ve heard it all.
And yet, here I found myself sitting in a group with only 10 others, absolutely transfixed; as if hearing a sermon for the very first time.
The speaker was a man named Marvin. He dressed in shabby clothes and was missing a few teeth. Neither eloquent nor educated, however his words were like a knife to the soul. As I listened, it occurred to me that instead of a speaker’s level of education, perhaps it’s the amount of suffering he has endured which gives him and his words credibility.
Marvin is living with Aids.
Along with a few dozen other patients he stays at the Hope Care Aids home. Last year, after hearing about the good news of Jesus Christ, Marvin gave his life to the Lord and became a Christian. Almost instantly his best friend at Hope Care, Larry, lost his fight to with Aids and passed away. It was a dark time for Marvin. And again, several weeks ago Marvin lost another friend at Hope Care to the disease.
“After my second friend died, I started to get depressed again and thought, Oh no, am I going to have to deal with this again? But, then God showed me a verse that gave me the strength I desperately needed.”
Marvin read 1 Peter 5:10 to us, which says, “And the God of all grace…after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Marvin will struggle with the hurt and reality of death, but the struggle won’t last forever.
In that moment, I wanted to pen a note with this verse and send it back in time to myself in 2010: Jen, I know you feel like you’re dying right now. But, keep holding on. The suffering won’t last forever. Restoration will come.
Time seemed to stand still; Marvin and the others froze. I looked over at my husband, and realized how happy I am. How blessed I am. How far I’d come from the dark dungeons of August 2010.
Last week, I spoke with a friend who is struggling with a broken marriage and threats of divorce. She said, “Sometimes it feels as if this will never end; that I cannot make it through.” To her and to others who bind arms with us in struggles, this is the message of hope.
That God has a plan for restoration.
The ironic part is, I was at Hope Care Aids home to minister to Marvin and the other patients. I was there to “give back” during the Christmas season after being challenged by our Christmas reading plan. But, I was the one who left encourage. I was the one who was ministered to. I left with a full heart.
This Christmas, don’t forget about those in need. Here are some easy ways to give, without even having to leave your computer screen:
1. Hello Somebody: a ministry existing to help educate and feed children and to break the cycle of poverty and hunger. You can make a financial donation or purchase a stylish watch which will help buy Christmas gifts for street children in Rwanda.
2. Operation Christmas child: a ministry of Samaritan’s purse which gives shoe boxes filled with Christmas gifts to needy children. Donate $7 to help with shipping boxes or $35 online to fill and ship a box.
3. Operation Warmth: Make a financial contribution to help provide a warm coat to a needy child.
Question: What did you do to give back this Christmas season?