Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things–only small acts with great love.“
Small acts are beautiful and when I’m content to stay faithful in them, I see love unfold more purely in my life and ministry. When I get distracted with “greatness” I lose sight of kingdom stuff. It stinks. I don’t like it when I find myself wandering. It happens easily, sometimes unknowingly. But I’m thankful for the Word, for the Holy Spirit, and evidence of Christ all around me that nudges me gently (and sometimes not-so gently) back onto the narrow path.
One of these nudges came through a friend of mine who has been faithfully serving in “small acts” for over a decade. Quietly serving, hoping, praying and deciding to be Jesus in places that seem dark and broken and hopeless. She sent an email update to her team who now volunteers at Carver Village, a housing community in Bartow, Florida. And I could see some of the pieces that God had orchestrated for all of our paths to cross.
Since her email in April, a lot has happened at Carver, just miles from our own doorsteps. Day after day she has trusted in God to provide the most basic needs for the families she walks with every week. And God has provided some wonderful support as the body of Christ does what it does best, together.
While each of us have our own calling, her consistent and remaining dedication is a testimony of the fruits that can exist when we do just that. When we’re consistent. When we remain in God’s strength.
When we don’t give up, no matter what. When we pay attention to the needs in front of us.
And I’m encouraged to stay faithful. Together, we do our best to meet the needs of the students in front of us. Regardless of race, or money, or lack of money, regardless of gender or struggle, or family situation. We look in front of us and we say yes.
Her story inspired me that day in April in and inspires us still. In fact, I hope you will ask yourself the same question. Are you willing to be faithful in the small things and to the people who God has given you to love?
Jessie Goodman poured out her heart on April 20, 2012. I kept her email because it meant so much to me. It said to my heart, don’t give up. God loves those you see and he made them too. All he desires is for all of us to say yes and to begin. The miracles remain in His hands and we can give Him all of the glory.
Note from Jessie:
“I’m hungry. I’m hungry…”
“We didn’t even have a snack at school today.”
“Ok, give me one second…” I pour a snack bowl, it disappears. I pour another, it disappears. And another, and another…
I wish I were this hungry spiritually.
Crackers and fruit snacks and juice and water. It’s all going fast.
The door keeps pounding with more kids coming to eat snacks, get a hug, do some homework, color a picture and in some cases, avoid going home for a little longer. A few volunteers…friends…show up and help save the day. People with eyes to see and ears to hear. We are always “under-staffed,” but “Jesus died that there would always be enough,” and so we go back. We show up over and over again, sometimes feeling like we are making little difference. But that’s the key. The “little” differences add up. They matter. In fact, they are the secrets of the Kingdom-the whispers from God that something of eternal good is going on here. Small Clues that lead to great treasure on this hunt to find Jesus behind many faces and desperate needs.
Tears surface as I write about these “little” changes.
A little girl says to me in the kitchen: “You’re very, very nice.”
“Me? Well, thanks.” I quietly smile in my heart.
(Her mom had just gotten into a fight with another mom.)
I do an art project with the kids, interrupted my 100 reprimands and mini-lessons on respect, and have them draw a picture of everyone in their household. A little girl walks up to me and says “look.” I look down, and see a drawing of myself in her picture. Above my head the words read “You.” And I ask her if I am part of her family and she says yes. (Another heart-smile)
I teach them Psalm 68:5, about God being a “Father to the Father-less,” and they draw God in the place of where a dad should be.
I wonder what help this is when most of them
have no idea what it looks or feels like to have a Father.
A 10-year old boy lies to me, and then mouths obscenities to the tune of the piano notes another kid is playing without permission. The piano playing boy wants to be called “Webby” and says it’s a “gangsta.” (This the boy who had just hit someone) I correct the 10-year-old and insist that he look me in the eyes when I do. He says sorry.
It’s the little things…
Another 4-year-old boy is especially loud and angry today, not complying. I invite him to come talk with me and look me in the eyes. I assure him I am not mad and ask him what is wrong. “I wanna see my mom.” “Do you want to go home?” “She’s not there.” “Well who was watching you?” “My teacher.” “Do you miss your mom?” “Yes.” “I’m sorry… ” “Do you wanna go to your grandma’s?” “No.” He stays. He stays and buys time before having to go home to an abusive grandmother.
I walk next door with some volunteers and children into “The Gardens,” which is the complex right beside Carver Village. One of the “breezeway moms” gives me a genuine smile and tells us to drive safely when we leave. (A first) I meet one of my kids’ moms for the first time and I brag on her son as I stand in the rain looking up to her on the apartment balcony. She smiles with pride. We invite people to church and I pray with a one-year-old baby girl who had terrible burns on her leg from pulling a pot down from the stove. There are no parents home with her, just a couple of sisters. She smiles back at me and her eyes twinkle like stars. I think of my own one year old.
I wonder how it feels to be that little girl.
We walk through the broken-bar gap in the iron gate back to the parking lot. My feet are dirty. My heart is overwhelmed. Empty but full.
“I’m hungry. I’m hungry…”
I go back to my own kids and see Jesus hiding behind their faces too, and in the faces of the poor on the street. I stop for them too. I know as I stop for one, God is stopping for me. He is there. He is faithful to fill up our hungry hearts just like we fill up snack bowls.
“If we are faithful in the little things, He will be faithful in the big things!” (Katie Davis)
I said a prayer for you tonight. Wherever you are. Whoever you do life with. That you would know that God is faithful in the big things and is able.
And, if you live in the Lakeland area and would like to know more about Carver Village of Hope, or how to get involved. You can contact Jessie to find out more.