Saturday, October 3, 2015

these my brothers

When presented mid-summer with two options for how to spend a week of family vacation - a week at the cabin or a family missions week - the kids overwhelmingly and enthusiastically voted for family missions week. The fine balance of travel schedules, work schedules and school schedules meant that we wouldn't be joining a missions organization, but putting together something on our own that met our family's needs. Our desire is for our kids to see their neighborhood, their school, their city as their mission field. So this family missions week didn't mean crossing the ocean, or even the state line, to serve God and love His people.

With Matthew 25:40 as our theme, we set out for the week's events. 
34Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" 40And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Mt 25:34-40
Our goal was to make this scripture tangible so the kids could see an example of how to put into practice the things they read in the Bible. Throughout the week we wanted to feed, welcome, clothe, and visit the people God brought into our lives.

::: feeding :::

Our first task was to feed the hungry right in our city. We've all seen the people standing on the corner of the exit ramps with a sign asking for help. I think many times they're passed by with contempt or, worse, without even being noticed. But these are people with a need and we wanted to meet it in some small way. In order to do this, we needed to plan ahead. We put together ten bags with McDonald's gift cards, some nonperishable food items and a bottle of water. {this idea came from a book called Cleaning House}

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We also included a notecard with Scripture on it. Each of the writers in our family chose a verse and filled out two notecards.

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The daily routine of life in the suburbs doesn't lead to any many opportunities to help people in this way, but later in the week we were headed into the city so we planned to distribute the bags then. We told the kids as we were on our way to let us know if they saw anyone on the corner holding a sign asking for food or help. The first man we saw was laying against a fence with his hat pulled over his eyes. We were stopped at a red light so Sean was able to get out and give him a bag. And in the next few moments, I saw Jesus in my husband in a way I'd never seen before. Sean didn't just hand the man a bag of food and leave, which unfortunately, is what I would've done. He shook the man's hand, asked him his name, and told him it was nice to meet him. He saw this man as Jesus sees him, as a man uniquely created in the image of God. {Lord, forgive me for my blindness and thank you for your Holy Spirit that convicts and guides and draws us closer to You.}

We continued feeding people that week, but this time it was people on the other side of the world. We spent one morning at Feed My Starving Children packing food for children in Afghanistan. Although Evie is technically too young, we were able to find a job for her putting labels on bags and drawing pictures for the kids receiving the food. The older kids fell right into their favorite jobs around the packing stations. That morning we packed enough to feed 75 kids for a year.

::: welcoming :::

Hosting guests in our home is common and something our kids experience quite regularly. Nearly every Friday after school we hear, "Who is coming over this weekend?" Given that family missions week also happened to be the last week of preparation before school started and our schedule was full, we decided to take the opportunity to practice hospitality outside of our home. Delivering cookies to some new neighbors and helping others prepare for guests was how we planned to do this. MN Adult & Teen Challenge is an organization we've been involved with for a few years so when Sean contacted them about opportunities for our family to serve there, we were invited to help prepare the chapel for an upcoming graduation ceremony. When the students graduate, they invite family and friends to their home-away-from-home to celebrate their hard work and the redemptive work of Christ in their lives. We dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed, mopped, and squeegeed our way through the afternoon in preparation for the event.

Because Sean is the tallest, he got the dusting job.

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Wes made sure the windows were streak free...

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and Jack wiped up all the drips.

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There was fighting over who would get to vacuum. (Why don't they do that at home?)

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Both Elise and Wes got to mop. Both claimed that they'd mop all the time if we had one like this at home. Somehow I think the novelty would ware off...

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Evie was just praying it would be over soon...just kidding! {lately, for some reason, she's been requesting pictures of her praying} She was so eager to help with everything and plowed right through the afternoon despite being on day 4 without a nap.

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One of my least favorite things to do is clean the house. Even lower on my list of favorite things to do is teaching our children to clean the house. Not because I don't enjoy teaching our children, I actually love it. It's just that, because I don't like house cleaning, I want it done as quickly as possible and teaching kids to do it right makes it take much much longer. But as I washed windows alongside our boys and returned to the chapel to see our daughter happily mopping a bathroom that she'd cleaned almost independently, the Lord affirmed that even the smallest things we are pouring into our kids are for His purpose.

::: visiting :::

While at Teen Challenge, we were able to talk about the importance of visiting people who are isolated, whether it be because they are in prison or sick or separated from their family for some other reason. Growing up in a family with four children, I'm not sure how often our kids will experience isolation (especially since they share bedrooms), but we do want them to know how blessed they are to be surrounded by people who love them and to be generous about sharing that blessing with others.

::: clothing :::

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

We talk frequently about the many material blessings God has given us and how we need to be good stewards of what we've been entrusted with. A large part of stewardship comes from an understanding that what we have has been given to us by God to use for a time and that we shouldn't "store up" things that others can use. Our plan was to have a go-through-your-closet day where we decided what didn't fit anymore, what we didn't use anymore or what was more than what we need (clothes, toys, books, etc., were all to be considered). While we had hoped to accomplish this during family missions week, the task ended up being too big for an already full schedule so this project had to be put on hold.

::: fellowship :::

In the daily routine and demands of life, we sometimes forget to enjoy each other. To just have fun together as a family. So part of the purpose of this week was a chance to just be together. We took a mid-week break and stayed at a hotel that had a water park. We ALL had so much fun. Although it was pretty big, we could always find the kids in one of two places.

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Jack and Elise could be found swimming or tubing down the lazy river, while Wes and Evie could be found on a water slide. 

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Evie, on this small one;

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Wesley on one of the three that required a 67-step climb to get to the top of.

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As I reflect back on our week, I'm struck most by the magnitude of the small things.  What I mean is... the things we did, really, were very small in terms of time or other resources, but they were big to some people. Spending a few hours serving others meant that 75 kids would not be hungry; it meant that four men would go to sleep with food in their stomachs for a night; it meant that men and women defeating addiction could celebrate with pride; it meant that someone wasn't alone. And what it meant to us was that our family has a bigger purpose than what is apparent in the day-to-day routine of work and school and home. God has prepared a work for us and we are working on changing our perspectives and our routines so that we can see and accomplish what He has called us to.