Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Here at River of Life Church, we focus on missions. We understand the value of supporting missionaries around the world who spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We support missionaries overseas, as well as, domestically here in the United States.
Recently at an elders’ board meeting, the pastor suggested we reach out to the local schools to support those in need in our local community. Being Christmastime, I knew this was a good time to start such an effort.
We live in an area of affluence. The median house price and salary range is way above the national average. Although we have some pockets of low income and impoverished people, one traveling in this area would find them few and far between. Yet I knew, behind the walls of some of the finest homes in the area, people struggled financially and providing a blessed Christmas was out of the question. Partnering with local schools, the identity of those people can be protected. Schools know the financial situation of many because of the free and discount lunch programs offered to those struggling financially.
How do I know?
Not too long ago, my family, living in a very nice home in a bucolic neighborhood, struggled financially. I had been unemployed for about five years at the time. From the outside, you would not know. The yard was well-kept, the gardens weed-free and the curb-appeal was wonderful. I had plenty of time to do the work, unfortunately.
Inside, we struggled to put food on the table, keeps the lights on and the children clothed. I would work any odd job I could to raise some funds, but mainly we lived off the savings stored during better times and liquidated retirement funds enduring the double-whammy of taxes and penalties for early withdrawals. Several times, we refinanced the house to use the equity to pay the mortgage. A one point, we thought about selling the house and renting an apartment only to realize we didn’t have enough for a security deposit and a credit rating so bad, no one would rent to us.
I applied to many jobs with a 100% rejection rate. I even applied to companies such as McDonalds, Burger King, Lowes and Home Depot to work any kind of job to bring in some money only to be turned down. My education and experience precluded me from such jobs because they knew it was only a temporary job.
Finally, I was able to obtain a “job” conducting training. I was paid for the days I trained. The pay was minimal, and the employer was very crafty in deducting fees from the little they did pay. I traveled 100% the time, supporting the employer’s business using my personal credit card. Hotel and meals were reimbursed but after some delay. Despite the low pay and full-time travel, I was able to pay enough bills to keep from going bankrupt quickly.
My children were registered for the free lunch program at the local elementary school. At least they got a decent meal Monday through Friday. Dinners were pretty thin on content, but at least they got food. There wasn’t any room in the budget for extraneous expenses or purchases.
Christmastime was coming and as I sat in my hotel rooms night after night, I wondered what Christmas was going to be like that year. The years prior, Christmas was low on festivities and presents, but the children understood because I wasn’t working. This year was different since I was working and their expectations were higher. Not that my children wanted that much in the way of presents, but I could see they were more excited. How could I tell them this year was worse than the previous years because the savings and retirement funds were gone and the money I was making only paid for half of the monthly bills? I remember the night in that hotel room when I was literally being crushed by the thought of another year, when it is supposed to be joyous, being so disappointing for my children. I have never felt a worse feeling than being a father and husband who couldn’t support his family.
I hold a master’s degree in computer science. I developed software that millions of people used. I wrote hundreds of articles that helped shape the telecommunications industry. I was considered excellent at everything I did professionally. And yet, no one would hire me. The only job I could get didn’t even support my family. I shouted at the top of my lungs, “God, make this year different. Let it be a Christmas where my family experiences the Love of Christ, not just in words or a few songs, but in action. I don’t want to go to church, sing all those songs and put a smile on my face as if everything is just fine. God, we need a miracle.”
We received a call from my children’s school asking if there was anything we needed in the way of Christmas presents or food or clothing. My wife took the call while I was traveling. She said yes to all. When she told me about it, I could only gasp. She told me of gifts we had received, ones we could never have afforded. She described the wonderful food provided for a Christmas meal. And then she told me of the jackets we received. There was even one for me. It was a true blessing. I thought of the Christmas Carol story and how Uncle Scrooge finally learned the true meaning of life – doing for others.
I wore that jacket for years. It was my favorite jacket because of the story behind it. The day finally came to donate it to another needy person. As I placed that jacket in the box, I prayed over it.
I said, “Lord, I thank you for this jacket. I thank you for the way it came to me in my time of need and you heard my prayer (venting). I thank you it kept me warm all these years. I ask You bless the person who donated the money for this jacket that he or she receives a ten-fold return. I pray for the person who receives this jacket. May it keep him as warm as it kept me. I ask he receives it and Your Warm Love just as I did when I received it. May he come to know You are his personal Savior. And Lord, I pray You give me the ability and the opportunity to donate jackets, food and presents to those in need. Amen.” I sealed up the box and gave that jacket away.
In Acts 1:8, it talks about ministering to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all the world. Since that day I gave the jacket away, the Lord has provided the ability and the opportunities to minister to Judea, Samaria and all around the world through the missions and missionaries I support. With the outreach to the local schools, I can now serve Jerusalem, my local community. The local school only needed 20 children supported for this Christmas. The pastor preprinted 20 envelopes. I ran to the front of the line. I wasn’t going miss my opportunity to give to that child in my community. May he or she be blessed. I pray he or she and the entire family know the love of Jesus this Christmas. I want them to know people, their neighbors, care about what they are going through and want to help. No condemnation. No judgement. No animosity. I want the father and husband to realize there are others who understand that feeling of failure, frustration, and self-doubt. I want him to realize he is loved by a fellow man and by Jesus Christ. I want that family to simply understand the love of Christ working through us to them.
Merry Christmas. Christ is more than the reason for the season. Christ is Christmas. God’s greatest gift to all mankind – His Son, Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2018 David A. Zimmer, All Rights Reserved.