Yet another year has come to an end and a new one has begun. As many people say, each year just seems to be getting shorter than the one before. At this time of year I usually start reflecting on what I have done and seen in the year before. It has truly been an exciting year for me!
I traveled to Hawaii, Utah, Nevada, California, Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina. I watched in reverence as the oil from the USS Arizona rose in the water of Pearl Harbor. I celebrated my youngest son's birthday while hiking through the National Parks of Utah. I celebrated my own milestone birthday hiking in the granite giants of Yosemite National Park. I helped the church turn an old worship space into a new worship space. I celebrated my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary in grand style with an enormous dinner and a concert/laser light show. I prayed with my family as my father faced surgery for bladder cancer and had to have a kidney removed. I later celebrated when he was given a clean bill of health. During 2017 I have worried, laughed, cried and even steamed, sometimes all in the same day. But my most meaningful experience of the year happened just a few weeks ago in Hamilton, Ohio.
In early December, I along with 3 other people from Mason UMC joined Mark from Helping Hamilton on his trip through the city of Hamilton. Each Sunday Mark gets up and makes 120 bologna sandwiches. He packs the sandwiches, some individual snack packs, socks, feminine products and whatever other supplies that get donated to the ministry in the back of an old Bengals tailgating bus. After picking up any volunteers he may have at the Kroger's parking lot, he makes the rounds of the places in Hamilton that he and his wife, Rachel, have learned the homeless and needy of Hamilton can be found.
Each week Mark, and many times his wife and children, reach out to those that are often ignored by others. They don't go out to preach the gospel to these folks; instead they go to live out the gospel with them. They share food and conversation with a group of people desperately in need of some compassion. Mark really talks with the folks he is serving. He knew the name of most of the people who came up to the bus that day. He knows what is going on in their lives. If someone is ill he checks up on them during the week and tries to make some sort of contact with them. Through this relationship he builds with his friends over time they learn about his faith. But only when the time is right and they are ready to hear about it. How does he know they are ready? He listens to God's urging.
Mark is a realist. He knows that many of these folks have made and continue to make bad decisions. But God doesn't ask him to change their situations or try to educate them. God has asked Mark to feed the hungry of his community of Hamilton...and he does.
What Mark does is not for everyone. God does not ask us all to do the same thing because there are many needs to be filled. When we open our hearts God will show us just what need we can fill for him.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35
Director of RENEW