Tuesday, October 04, 2005

AMAZING GRACE by Keith Giles

AMAZING GRACE by Keith Giles

God has done an amazing work in my heart and life over these last three years.

Before we had even begun an official Compassion Ministry at The River, my wife Wendy discovered that we were near a home for Seniors called Tustin Hacienda and found a way to get us scheduled to visit the residents there once per month.

At first this was something that we invited our Kids Rock kids to join us in. We wanted to provide a tangible opportunity for our kids to “be Jesus” to those in our community who were lonely, poor and alone.

Those first few months were awkward. We had no worship leaders on the team and so the kids would stand in the main room and sing worship songs accapella. We’d get odd looks from the people there who didn’t know the songs we were singing, and they clapped mostly out of a kindness of heart, probably not too sure what to make of us.

We went from room to room knocking on doors to step in and sing these songs to total strangers. Some of them smiled, some of them didn’t even turn down their very loud television sets as we attempted to sing or pray for them. Others were thrilled to have visitors, especially children.

I must confess that, at first, I wasn’t personally so excited about this ministry. There were times when any excuse for me to stay home was preferable to me. I didn’t really feel a strong connection to these people or see the value in what we were doing, other than to help those kids get a taste of what ministry could be.

It honestly didn’t begin to seep into my heart until the end of the second year of our ministry there. As we got to know the people at the Hacienda more intimately I became emotionally connected to them. I got to know “The General”, a wonderful man who had served in World War II and was wheel-chair bound. I can remember praying with him and seeing the tears in his eyes when he told me that, if were able to, he’d gladly re-enlist to defend our country. When I thanked him for what he’d already done he squeezed my hand tighter. Even though he couldn’t form the words to speak to me, the emotion in his face was enough for both of us to understand each other.

When he died it was as if my own Grandfather had died. I wept for him. I got to share in the grief of those who knew him best. We all missed him. He had been part of our family at Tustin Hacienda.

Over time we got to know the stories of people like Alvin who had been General George Patton’s cook during WW2. He even received a medal for his bravery under fire and for serving up meals that were better than they got at home, all while being shelled and shot at. He looks just like Santa Claus and even spent many Christmas seasons holding children on his knees at South Coast Plaza, a local mall, posing for pictures and making kids smile. Maybe some of us put our own children on his lap without even realizing it. I wonder.

We learned about Anne and how she used to sing at nightclubs. We heard Gladys tell us how she actually died on the operating table at 100 years of age and how God brought her back. She’s now 102 years old.

We got to meet George, a wonderful English gentleman with a great fondness for Texas and a spectacular career in aviation which has been documented in trade journals and in articles he’s written for the US Government. I’ll never forget the time George told us that he’d “find it unfortunate to die unnecessarily” due to a missed flu shot.

Lloyd, a dear man of God who pastored his fellow residents, was always quoting his favorite scripture to me, “For no eye has seen, and no ear has heard what God has in store for those who love Him.” Papa Art was always thrilled to see us. He always asked us to pray for him and he kept every picture and photo we ever gave him.

Dorothy, if we’re allowed to have favorites, would probably qualify for most everyone’s list. She lost her husband the same year we began to visit there. It wasn’t until much later that I learned from the workers that Dorothy never left her room for any reason, never made friends with the other residents, and wouldn’t have anything to do with anyone other than her own family….and us. We’re so grateful that God allowed us into her heart and to help her to open up her door to people who loved her and cared for her.

I could go on and on. I haven’t even told you about Lily, Hazel, Beulah, Brother Ralph, Rhoda, Robert, and so many dear, sweet, lovely other people.

Those of us who made the time on the third Saturday of each month are so much richer for having been part of these people’s lives.

Without them, where would we be? How much poorer would my life be without having known, and loved, these dear ones?

So, I want to say “Thank You” to God for His patience with someone like me who resisted His goodness and held little value for His people, or His good will in my life.

We started out with the desire to bless the residents of this home, as if we had everything to give and all they had was emptiness, but in the end, we were the ones who took home the treasure in arms of love. We were the ones who received the blessing and the amazing grace of God.

Welcome to the Kingdom.

“Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:12-14


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othentic said...

This speaks so much to obedience to the disciplines of our faith. Just like God's laws are there to protect us from harm, His disciplines are there to enrich us and increase the wealth of our lives, not just those who we're called to minister to.
I'm grateful for your candor about being a reluctant servant there. In my own life I serve where I'm called and leave my emotions behind because I often don't "feel" fulfilled.
Anyhow, I'm glad that you persevered and were also so richly blessed. It leaves me feeling that even though there were other valuable things taking my focus, I missed this blessing. It reminds me to be sure to live my life intentionally and make choices proactively rather than just letting life and opportunities slip by.