An Early Christmas Present
God uses adversity and difficulty to build our faith and draw us to himself. In the moment it can be difficult comprehending it because we can’t “feel” it… it must be “believed”. However, after the fact we can begin to “see” how the good is birthed out of the “bad”.
Here’s a touching story how God melted a heart through the recent fire @ Hope Gardens.
Doina is from Romania. She is a senior resident living at Hope Gardens. Her demeanor is rather “European” and can come off rather aloof. Doina tends to filter things through a negative filter. A few months ago she was not too happy with a message I gave about “Gratefulness”. But something significant has happened recently.
The fire at Hope Gardens came within four feet of the senior building. The police woke them up at 4:00 am by pounding on their doors to evacuate… even breaking their doors to get in and rescue them. The fire was so close they could feel the heat and the smoke was so thick outside they had a hard time finding their way to the vehicles.
They were evacuated in their pajamas to a local church five miles away with no time to grab their valuables, medication, or a change of clothes. Within an hour they had to evacuate the church as the fire had reached that area as well. I greeted them at the gymnasium downtown on skid row at the URM. They were fearful, worried, and frazzled.
We had 250 other mothers and children in the make-shift emergency shelter in the gym. Air mattresses lined the floor. It was a scary morning. When I saw the situation I rallied the senior ladies to pray with them, hug them, and give them my plan. Deed and Truth was going to take responsibility for moving them to a hotel in Pasadena. They started to cry tears of joy.
Once we relocated them I took them to Denny’s and Target to feed and clothe them. We kept them there until we could get them back to Hope Gardens. The women were so very appreciative. Doina, in particular, couldn’t get over how well she and her friends we cared for in a time they were feeling vulnerable, afraid, and displaced. The fire melted her heart. She couldn’t thank me enough in front of the entire community at the town-hall meeting the day after we returned.
A couple weeks have passed since the fire. This past Tuesday I spoke that their chapel. I shared the Christmas story from the perspective of the incarnation of Christ and the incredible sacrifice of the Cradle. I gave the ladies an opportunity to receive Christ. Afterward Doina raised her hand.
Doina began to speak, “Pastor Dan, I have searched for an answer to the question, “Why did God have to send his Son to die?” for many, many years. I have asked a Catholic priest and he couldn’t give me a sufficient answer… I asked an Orthodox priest and still I didn’t get a convincing answer… I asked a Jewish Rabbi but still no answer to my question. But today… I have found the answer… I get it for the first time in my life. I have had an Epiphany!”
As I left the building Doina chased me down… “Pastor Dan, Pastor Dan… please wait for one moment”, and as she caught her breath she said, “Pastor Dan, I want to make sure you know how significant this is for me… I am having a life moment… This is life changing to understand how it is that God can offer me forgiveness. You will never know how important today as been for me.”
As I reflect on what has happened… I am seeing that the fire was necessary for Doina to experience… to melt her heart so she could receive the message of Christmas and Salvation with an open mind and a soft heart. She trusts me. She feels safe. She has seen the gospel in real life lived out by how she was treated during her time of distress… and now she has ears to hear the Message of the Gospel… and it is truly Good News to her heart.
Yesterday Doina said, “I have a Christmas gift for you and Betty that I think you will like.” She handed me a Christmas Card. We were deeply moved by this early Christmas present. I took a picture of it so you could read it in Doina’s own handwriting…
Thank you to those who donated to the needs created by the fire. This story is a result of your generosity and love.