It’s so easy for me to forget how much I have. One of the times it’s easiest to be reminded of what you have is when you move. Being in such a transient town, I am constantly greeted by people’s stuff as they move in or out of the dorms, when they move across town to a new apartment, or when they finally move into their first home.
This summer, I had to move 360 miles from Blacksburg to Virginia Beach for Leadership Training. The program is ten weeks long, so I took most of my worldly possessions and shoved them into my ’92 two-door Honda Civic hatchback named Margie. It may not seem like much, but when I compare my wealth to those who attend the United Inner-City Fellowship in Roanoke, I realize how blessed I am.
The United Inner-City Fellowship is a church made up of low-income families. It is run by Pastor Mike English and his wife Billie. Mike spends seven days a week collecting food from businesses all over the New River Valley. Billie works full time to provide for their family. On Sundays, the two of them come together for two services where the Word is preached, God is worshiped, and the poor are fed.
NLCF has been involved with this church on-and-off over the years. Over this past year, a number of students and I have been involved with going to their Sunday evening service and spending time with the children there. The church has no “staff” other than Mike and Billie, so the kids only get focused attention if someone shows up to help.
In Matthew, Jesus speaks of Himself when He tells a certain parable. He says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Last fall I was experiencing a very difficult season of anxiety and seeming distance from God. When a friend of mine told me that this church needed help with their kids, I remembered this verse and thought, perhaps I’ll find God here.
And I know I have.
The needs of these children are immense. They all need food and clothing and toys. But what they need most of all is Christ’s love. That may sound really cheesy, but when you find out a brother and sister are being physically and emotionally abused by their mom’s boyfriend and you have to call social services, you realize that a drastic saving love is needed.
The little sister that I mentioned used to be extremely outgoing with all of us. Then all of a sudden, one week she ran into the arms of Kristin, one of the volunteers who comes from Tech, and refused to be put down. She wouldn’t even look at any of the guys that had come. Instead, she buried her head into Kristin’s neck whenever any of us guys would approach. Starting then, we knew something wasn’t right.
Month’s later her brother finally let us know what was going on. The things we’d feared had been happening were confirmed. We called social services and have been praying for them ever since.
For several weeks in a row we didn’t see the brother and sister. The final Sunday before the summer, we prayed that we might minister to them one more time. And God gave us this privilege and beyond what I had hoped.
The little girl ran into Kristin’s arms and stayed there most of the night. During the hour we had with all the kids, we somehow digressed into giving the kids piggyback rides. After watching the other kids get rides for a while, this little girl asked me from Kristin’s arms if she could have one too.
She got on my back and laughed continually until I gave her back to Kristin. And later that night, she asked for another ride.
God is so good.
And this is only one story of many of the kids there. We are constantly looking for more people to come out with us on Sunday nights to serve these kids. If you want to see God’s love at work, come with us for a month. Come with us for a semester. You may laugh, cry, smile, feel awkward, gasp in shock at what these kids say, or find your heart broken. But you will be serving “the least of these.” And you will see God.
For more information, contact Brandon Thompson.