I am often deeply inspired by stories of people reaching outside of their comfort zones and loving those around them. Here are a couple of stories I witnessed over the past several weeks. Maria is a high school student who loves Jesus with a great passion. You would never accuse Maria of being an evangelist with her quiet spirit, but she has been loving her high school one student at a time. Brittany McAllister (on the right in the picture) was assigned a locker next to Maria (on the left) at the beginning of the school year. Maria began to reach out to Brittany as they talked in the halls of their high school in Illinois. Brittany is a good kid who works in a nursing home, loving the elderly, but she started the school year with a hole in her life that only God could fill. One day Maria invited Brittany to go to youth group with her and Brittany loved it. A few months later Maria invited Brittany to a winter retreat. Brittany said she would love to go but she just couldn’t afford it. Maria really touched Brittany’s heart by taking care of the cost. At the retreat is when I met Maria and Brittany. I shared my story Saturday night and though Brittany could not relate to my wild years of running away from home, abusing drugs and rebelling against authority, she listened politely. Then I told my wife Carol’s testimony (like I always do after I share mine.) Carol was a good kid growing up who realized that she was not good enough to get into heaven without God’s grace and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As I told Carol’s story, God opened Brittany’s eyes. In the next few minutes, Brittany reached out to Jesus and He was there to save her life. The next day I sat the girls down. I listened to their story. I told Brittany how excited I was about her new friendship with Jesus Christ. I told Maria that I was so proud of her for reaching out to Brittany and letting God’s love live through her. My father had a massive heart attack on February 27th. I thought we might lose him and it really shook up my whole family. The damage was significant, but dad is now on the road to recovery. When dad was moved out of intensive care to a room, he got a new roommate named Clemson. Dad noticed that when Clemson’s daughter and granddaughter came to visit, none of them said, “I love you” to each other. When the girls were leaving my dad lovingly pulled them aside and told them how important it is that they tell one another that they love each other. The daughter went back into the room and gently told her father that she loved him. Clemson said nothing. The girl said to my dad when she was leaving, “He didn’t respond.” My dad quietly said to her, “Give it time.”
When the girls were gone my dad went over to Clemson and said, “Clemson. I want you to start telling your girls you love them.” Clemson was silent. Dad asked, “Clemson, can you say those words, I love you?” Clemson said, “I suppose I could.” Dad said, “Good, let’s practice, I LOVE YOU! Say it with me Clemson, I LOVE YOU! Now Clemson, you need to start telling your girls you love them.” Dad left the hospital before Clemson’s daughters returned, but I love that in the middle of his life-threatening ordeal, my dad reached out and taught an elderly man how to say those three magic words. So, how are we doing with reaching out to those around us? Thank you for reaching out to our family with your love, prayers and support. Please pray for my dad, we’re so grateful to God for his life. He’s got a lot of living left to do.