Do you see what I see?

One Christmas Eve back in the mid-90′s I headed out to Kensington Avenue with my good friend, Shirley. She had called me a few days earlier to invite me on a very special mission. So, I said yes, as I was always ready for a bit of intrigue.

Packed in her trunk were about twenty gift bags filled with toiletries like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc. Shirley had prepared each bag with loving care and a silent, yet thoughtful, prayer went up as every one was completely filled.

Kensington Avenue is located in one of the ugliest areas of North Philadelphia known as the “Badlands”. I used to live and work just five minutes from the strip. After dark, and after most of the shops along this street (covered by the Elevated Train track overhead) were closed, out of the shadows crept the prostitutes who were ready to begin their workday. Dressed in dingy, skimpy clothing, with tired and vacant eyes and slouching shoulders, each girl began her silent sales pitch.

As we began our journey down this dimly lit avenue, bundled up and tucked safely in Shirley’s car, I could recall the words she spoke to me over the phone. It went something like this: “These girls just need to be touched with God’s love. Who else is going to do it? We’re His hands, Summer. I just want to make sure they know that God knows who and where they are, and that He loves them.” How could I resist?

One by one, as we inched along the street, we gave the bags away with a few words of hope. I wish I could say that they all responded with immense gratitude and that many decided to walk away from their lifestyle. But, no miracle happened that night. None that I could see anyway.

But, the memory of that evening is branded in my mind. And I thank Shirley for the invitation.

In 2002, I helped start a ministry to prostitutes along the railroad tracks in Zone One of Guatemala City. I’m no longer with that ministry, but my husband and I have maintained a relationship with one of the ex-hookers I’d met there. Her name is Sheny, and she’s HIV positive. She’s got three kids and we help them throughout the year with food, clothes, school supplies, etc. Sheny’s got a job, but only earns the equivalent of $200 a month, which barely provides for the rent, food and medication she needs to keep from dying too soon.

She’s got quite the story, Sheny does. Her life history makes mine seem like a fairy tail – and I didn’t have it easy.

I’m not tooting my own horn or patting myself on the back by sharing this with you. The truth is, it’s a sacrifice for me to give of my money, time and energy. Oftentimes, I’d rather stay inside my cozy home and enjoy being with my husband and son. But, I’m always haunted by the fact that there are millions of people hurting in this world.
So I give.

I wish I could give more. I wish I could do more.

We have gifts nicely wrapped under the tree for Sheny and her kids this year. Nothing fancy, really. Just blankets and some toiletries. But, we’re happy to give, because we know that through giving God’s love is communicated.

Shirely’s still living in Philly, giving of herself constantly.

How will you spend your Christmas? Will you give to someone in need? Who do you know that’s hurting?

It’s a challenge.

Don’t do it to make yourself feel good or to ease your conscience. Give because you know someone needs it. Open up your heart and life and pour out kindness and gentleness and mercy.

Don’t think you have anything to give? Everyone has something.

Our budget was extremely tight this year, what with the newborn baby and all. But, It’s worth it to love someone else, no matter what the cost. So we’ll be in debt for a couple of months. So what.

Give.
Help.
Love.

Merry Christmas!
Summer

(Originally written December, 2007)

I stand convicted!

I recently read an article in “Voice of the Martyrs” that has left me convicted.

“Who is First?” In our day to day living are we putting God’s Kingdom first?  As I reflect and read stories of Christians sacrificing themselves and their families for Christ, I feel remorse for not doing more for God’s Kingdom.  I feel guilt for thinking the minor persecution I suffer for my faith may be enough.

I am guilty for putting my family first.  How many of us are?  We live day to day being a Martha.  Filled with anxiety and worry about what we have not gotten done, what we need to do.  Worrying about our finances and the picnic we are preparing for…..How much of this is really essential in our daily living.  How much of a role is all this in our real job here on earth -  servants for the Almighty God.

My heart yearns for the Lord yet I do not do nearly enough to sacrifice myself.  I feel sorry for myself because my marriage is not nearly what I want it to be.  I feel pity for the daily grind I need to put up with in my household and feel this is a sacrifice in an of itself.

It may very well be but when you look around the world at what others are sacrificing young and old it really makes you appreciate the fact that we have so much even if we feel we have so little.

Although I may not be a part of their faith, I have a great respect for the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses for going door to door spreading the Word of God.  Stopping people on the street to tell them of Jesus’ love.  Praise God for witnesses such as these.

Lead me, Father God, to be the Christian witness you need for me to be right here where you have placed me.  Although I may not have to give my life in order to spread your Word, Lord, I want to be a living sacrifice in my community.  Teach me your ways, Lord.   Teach me how to spread your Word and to be an effective witness for your kingdom.

What Are You Willing to Give?

Booker T. Washington has left us the following words to consider.  “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”  As Christians in a material world we often forget that our success is not measured by the wealth we obtain or how important our job title is.  Many people waste their lives chasing worldly success and public acknowledgment. Matthew lets us know that these accolades are only temporary (Matthew 6:19).  It is not your possessions or your “public profile” that defines who you are, it’s what you give during your lifetime. 

As practicing Christians we must give our lives to Christ, our best effort to the Gospel, and our hearts to heaven.  If we do this everything else will fall into place.  As it says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” True Christianity is not concerned with what one may be able to gain, but how much one is able to sacrifice. In the long run, if we shamefully deny Christ to gain the pleasures of this sinful world, then He will reject us as well to his Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:33)