Saturday, March 26, 2005


“LUPITA’S SURPRISE” by Keith Giles

My cell phone rang last Saturday morning as I watched cartoons with my two sons. It was Pete, the manager of the California Suites Inn. Our Church had adopted the residents of this motel where several low-income families lived.

I don’t normally get calls from Pete unless it’s an emergency. His tone was calm, but I could hear some emotion in his voice as he shared with me about a couple in serious need of help.

Lupita and Javier are a young Hispanic couple who live in Garden Grove with their four children. Javier had done some work around the motel for Pete over the last few years and lived in an apartment formerly managed by Pete’s ex-wife, Mary Anne. Pete and Javier were friends and I could tell that Pete was very concerned.

A few weeks earlier, Javier had to stop working because of a respiratory infection. Because they have no insurance, he simply stayed home and tried to rest. A few days later he found he couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital where he lost consciousness and ended up on a respirator.

Lupita was now left wondering how to feed their children and pay their bills while worrying if Javier would live or die.

I asked Pete if Lupita could come and meet us at the motel since The River would be passing out “Easter Baskets” to the residents there. I wanted to meet with her and help her in any way I could. Pete said he’d have his ex-wife drive them over.

When I arrived at the Motel that afternoon I met with Lupita and, with a little help from Mary Anne’s interpreting, we listened to her story. Her tears needed no translation however and we instantly felt compassion for her and her family.

Wendy and my little boys, Dylan and David, all joined hands with Lupita and Mary Anne and prayed for her and for Javier. She understood enough of our words to cry when we hugged her and told her that everything was going to be ok.

As God would provide, the trunk of my car was filled with a case of Huggies and diaper wipes and a cardboard box of canned food which we gave to her. We also gave her the nicest laundry basket of goodies off the Rescue Mission truck that we could find. The chaplain of the Rescue Mission, Ray Green, gave her his personal cell number and told her to call him so he could get her all the food she needed next week and I took down Lupita’s phone number and told her that The River would help her as much as we could with rent and utilities that were coming due in April.

Just the other day I was talking with Pete and he had good news. He said that Javier had called him from the hospital to say “thank you” for everything we had done to help Lupita and his children. He sounded weak but he was conscious and breathing on his own.

Pete, who has not yet fully surrendered to Christ, but is a valuable member of our Motel Ministry Team…and a friend, fought back tears as he told me how good it felt to help this family in their hour of need and he thanked me and The River for being there for them.

“We make a good team, Pete,” I said. “Without you we couldn’t help anyone here in the motel, or Lupita either. Thank you for working with our church to bring light to these people.”

Pete then shared something with me that I’ll never forget. He told me how Mary Anne had called him the Saturday after we’d first helped Lupita. It seems that, on the drive home after meeting with Wendy and I she had expressed her surprise to Mary Anne. “When I first saw those people from the church I thought, ‘Oh no, they are all so white. They will never help us.’….but then they really did help us. I am so happy,” she said.

Pete and I had a good laugh over that, but then I said, “I’m glad that this was her first experience with someone helping her in spite of race or background. That’s the way it should be,” and Pete agreed.

One last note. Mary Anne and I had an interesting conversation last Saturday about Pete. She said that he was changing. “He’s had more peace and joy in his face the last few months,” she said. “I think it’s because he’s been working with your church to help the people here.” I agreed. Then she told me about Pete’s failing health. How his heart was not so strong and he’d been worried lately about dieing. “His own father died at about the same age that Pete is now,” Mary Anne said. “But the change over him has been so good to see. I told him that I thought that if he died today he’d die with peace in his heart and he said I was right.”

As Mary Anne confirmed my suspicions about the changes that God was doing in Pete’s heart I was encouraged that Kingdom was breaking in at this motel. Not just in the lives of the residents, but especially in the heart of Pete, the manager of this motel. This same manager who initially slammed the door in my face and told me he’d never allow anything religious or Christian into his motel. The same manager who, at first, told me I was wasting my time in this place.

And now I could see that, actually, he wasn’t the same guy anymore at all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


JESUS IS A VERB- by Keith Giles

A few days ago I helped put together an ambitious project to serve the poor, the least and the forgotten of Orange County, California. As part of a weekend Conference on God’s heart for the poor, we had put together four different locations where people could step in and serve others. There was one team that visited a local Senior Home, sang Hymns, and prayed over these dear ones while another team set up in the back parking lot of a motel where entire families live because they can’t survive on their minimum wage jobs, barely able to keep their heads above water. This team brought a bounce house for the kids to play on and provided free ice cream sundaes for everyone. They played games, gave out free toys, sang worship songs and shared the love of Jesus with them. Several young children at the motel service bowed their little heads and asked Jesus to come and live in their hearts.

On the other side of the freeway another team was passing out bags of free groceries to the residents of an apartment building. These families were just one step away from those in the motels, barely able to keep their families fed and rent paid. We passed out bread, eggs, rice, beans, various meats to those in line, and we prayed for their needs at the end of the line while their kids jumped on the bounce house and enjoyed their free popsicles.

While I was observing the service at the apartment I noticed the manager standing off to the side with tears in his eyes. I walked over and we started to talk about what was happening. He shared with me that, in his home country of Guatemala they have a saying that summed up what we were doing this day. “Jesus is a verb,” he said. “Don’t tell me you love Jesus…show me you love Jesus.” He continued to share with our team about how we were the first to ever do anything like this. “Others have brought food and left quickly, but you are the first to stay and sing songs and pray with them,” he said. Then he invited us to come back every month if we could.

So much about this weekend of serving the forgotten and the poor has touched me. I’m especially excited that our church seems to be catching this vision for looking outward. The Church has done an amazing job of creating programs that fulfill the needs of those within the four walls. We have Book Clubs and Home Groups and Men’s Groups and on and on. Those are wonderful things. The church is called to make disciples and without these sorts of gatherings it would be nearly impossible to accomplish. However, if we forget to look outward, to those poor and lonely and forgotten among us, how can we really call ourselves followers of this guy Jesus? All he ever did was see the small, the outcast, the poor, the broken and the lost. All he ever did was embrace them, heal them, pray for them, serve them and love them. For us to be followers of this Jesus we must look and act like Him.

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6

When someone’s words match their actions we call that “Integrity”. When words and actions don’t line up, we call that “Hypocrisy”. Perhaps what has hindered the Gospel most in the Western World has been this apparent disconnect between the teachings of Jesus and the lives of those who claim to follow after Him.

What the world needs most, I believe, is to see the people of God start to act like the people of God. What they desire most is to experience the love that Jesus said His disciples would embody. What’s needed now is for those who are called by the name of Christ to step out of their comfort zones and live out the values that they say they embrace.

The promise of The Gospel is that “The Word of God has become flesh and dwelt among us”. God has come near. God is with us. Jesus became the ultimate verb. He is the ultimate example of Love in Action.

This is the sort of Love that transforms us. It makes us into agents of change ourselves.

Our calling is to carry the verb and act out the words of our Lord. For all those thousands of years before the Cross, God told his people that He loved them. Then, in the form of the Incarnation, He put that love into action and expressed this amazing love in the flesh. This is a great mystery. Even the angels long to look into these things.

What’s even more challenging is that He then asks us to love others the way He has loved us. That’s putting Jesus into action.

“Show me you love Jesus, don’t just tell me you love Him.”

“We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

-Keith Giles