"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
After a meeting last Wednesday morning, I had time to stop in Bellevue and get a quick lunch. I pulled into a local favorite lunch place and ordered. They had just opened and their Visa machine was down, but they started cooking my food and asked me to pay when I left.
While I was waiting for my order to be completed, I went to wash my hands. As I walked towards the washroom, I looked out the windows to see a family standing near the exit of the parking lot. I had noticed them when I came into the lot, but I hadn’t paid much attention. At the time, it didn't seem as though they were homeless. They were just congregated at the corner. However, every time I looked over my shoulder, they were there. It didn't take long to figure out that they were indeed homeless.
The ladies at the counter came to me and told me they'd need me to get some cash from the local Walmart, because the credit card machine was down for the count. I told them I'd do it immediately after the meal.
By now, my lunch had arrived and as a typical habit, I had ordered too much. I figured that if I didn't eat all my food, I could take some across the street for them to eat. I didn't know if they'd want it, but I made sure to box it so when I would present it to them, it wouldn't look like I'd picked the food clean and left them scraps. I knew accepting food or money can be humiliating enough as it is.
I walked across the street and held out the food. The family barely spoke English, so communication was very limited. However, when the children saw that I brought them food, they opened the box and started eating it immediately. There were 4 kids and it was apparent that they were very hungry. When I asked the father what was happening to them, he told me he lost his job and home and couldn’t seem to get anyone to help (in what garbled English I could understand, anyway). The wife looked at me with sadness, but some small gratitude. The kids smiled with the food falling out of their mouths. I told them that God loves them and I walked across the parking lot to Walmart to get the cash to pay for my food.
On the walk across the parking lot, the thought flooded into me that I needed to buy them some more food, so I picked up some bananas, oranges, bread and water. I wanted it to be portable and simple to eat. I also got some extra cash, because I could afford to help, at least a little. When I walked back, they were gone, and I was heartbroken and a bit upset. To be fair, I thought that maybe I'd been scammed and at the same time, I just felt that couldn't be true. They weren't standing at the corner anymore, but that didn't mean I couldn't go out and find them. They couldn’t be far, so I went into the restaurant to pay my bill and resigned myself to driving around until I caught up to them.
When I went inside to pay, they were sitting at a table in the corner, eating what they could with the money they'd earned standing on the corner. When the father noticed me, I could see a little bit of embarrassment filter through his head. When he saw that I had grocery bags in my hand, he looked down and seemed to be hurt with pride, because as I walked closer, he realized they were for him and his family. I smiled, and gave them the bags of food, some cash and then walked away, telling them again that God loved them and that it will all be well. It felt so good to do something nice for a family in need, and I felt like I could tick off my good deed for the day.
I went to the counter and paid my bill, then started to walk out. However, something came over me when I got to the door. I realized I still had change left over from paying for my lunch, so I turned around to give them the money. When I started walking back towards the family, the parents looked noticeably distressed. At the same time, the children were smiling at me with these big beautiful eyes. The wife began to cry, and for some reason I reached out to wipe her cheek. She looked at the floor and that moment broke my heart. I told them that this was God in action. I smiled and walked away. It felt good, just like before. Maybe even better.
As I stepped out of the restaurant, something magical happened in my heart. I had a very strong wave of emotion break over me, and I ran to the car. Once I got inside the car, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I just sat there, and then it happened: I broke.
I sat in my car, leaning my head on the steering wheel and cried, hard, for the next 20 minutes. The whole experience just broke my heart, especially the plight of those children...those beautiful innocent children. After some time, something even bigger happened and I finally came to understand why I felt so sad, yet somehow accomplished… this weird bittersweet feeling.
I realized that when Jesus died on the cross, he must have felt like that…only a billion times over. He must have had that feeling of extreme joy, knowing that his sacrifice was one of such profound love for humanity... something that was done without expectation of any result or thanks. And yet, there must have been a sadness in knowing that He was leaving us behind to fend for ourselves (at least at the moment) and that there was so much hardship yet to come. Again, the children... all of us, His children.
It was at this moment, sitting in my van with tears pouring out of my eyes, that I felt like I finally understood what Christ really did for me. At least in how small I can explain or feel it. It was so intense, and it’s still intense, even 5 days later. I’ve never felt so raw. I cried when I went home and saw my children. It was such a bittersweet moment.
There are many families and individuals across this country (and the world) that need our help. Why did this family's plight affect me so profoundly? I'm not sure, but it did. Why am I sharing this with you? Because this is as real as it gets. Because God gives us so much to be grateful for and we rarely ever feel how profound it is... how special we are... how loved we are.
Many of you know that I feel compelled to share my thoughts, as well as what we believe is our family's destiny: to offer our help to families in crisis, in Japan. We know that our arrival date is September 2016. How do we know? We just know. That’s 2 years away. There is a lot to prepare for between now and then, and we will need help getting there.
Here's what we are asking for. We are looking for prayer, endorsement of our business, and support however you may see fit, so we can provide other sources of value and health for people. Because I'm not a Japanese citizen, especially one who didn't receive an education there, the opportunities to work over there are extremely limited. Because of this, we are building our business up to provide for residual income which will ease the daily need significantly. We have much to offer the country and we're excited to get "boots on the ground," so to speak. If you're compelled to reach out, please do so. Your support means so much more than you'll ever know.
Lastly, I pray that each of you reading this has your own "family standing on the corner" story to tell. I pray that God reveals His plan and love for you as soon as possible, so you can strike out and do something profound and world changing. We're all built to serve the greater good. Leave a giant footprint. All your needs will be provided for.... you just have to trust. When you ask God for direction, He'll show you. His answers are as clear as the sun.
Just busy serving the community. Nothing fancy to see here.