Every year we contact DSS and ask for families that are in need. The past 2 years, we asked for large families with 4+ children. The DSS lady emails me Mom’s name, children’s names, address and phone numbers. I ask my friends and family through this blog, facebook and email if they are interested in donating and then Brian and I watch as God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). This year Brian and I were absolutely dumbfounded. Never before has the DSS contact lady said anything about one of the families or given any details other than age, sizes, etc. This year, she made it clear one of the families had exceptional needs to be met. I asked Brian if he thought it would be ok for us to meet the case-worker at the home of the family, so we could assess exactly what they needed.
We arrived at their house exactly 11 days before Christmas. There was a Dad there to greet us with the Mother. We’ve never met a father in our 5 years of deliveries. This sweet couple invited us into their tiny 2 bedroom trailer. There we learned the couple had been married 16 years. They had 3 teenage daughters. He suffers from strokes and had recently also had a heart attack, and he is unemployed. Subsequently, they’d fallen behind on the car payment, some bills and were waiting on his disability to be approved. He stuttered unmercifully when he talked about all the money…Who they owed…How much. That afternoon, Brian asked for the payment stub to the power company. The bill that the man was most concerned about.
I emailed my huge group of aerobics friends from the gym, put a note on this blog, emailed my friends and put a few status updates on Facebook... 11 days before Christmas.
Amazing story #1: This is one of the first emails I received from a man I’ve never met.
My wife forwarded me an email with your plea for help regarding the families you listed on you blog. I want to do something for someone every Christmas. I haven't always been able to, always due to fault of my own for which I bear guilt every season. Even this year, I almost missed the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. Then I read your plea for help. You happen to reach me in a time of personal reflection and guilt, for many things I have done wrong in my life.
I would like to help out. Please accept the following pledge from me. I would like to help secure the housing for family #1. If you can get me the details, I will bring them current on their electricity bill, and rent, if possible (depends on $$$). If the other families have housing or utility problems, I would like to focus on that too, and see what I can do.
And, so he did. He paid the bill. In FULL. Did I mention the bill was $813.84? A man I’ll never meet, paid a bill for a man HE will never meet. Because he fiercely believed in helping someone in need. He asked to remain anonymous, so he is. He later went on to give an additional $450.
I can't help but make the parallel with JESUS himself.
In John 19:30 of God's Word, Jesus has been hanging on the cross for six hours. He is now breathing His last and it says, "When He had received the drink Jesus said, 'It is finished,' and with that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." If you were to read that three word sentence in the original Greek, it's one word: tetelestai. Which means 'paid in full'.
Amazing story #2: Twin bed and extra gifts.
One family donated a twin bed. She said that ‘this is just a bed that’s an extra at our house…for when guests are in town. We don’t need it. Someone could just sleep on an air mattress instead.' She went on to say that she had purchased a shirt at TJ Maxx for $10. Then, she heard the stories about these families in need and felt convicted about her purchase. She returned to the store with her children and returned the $10 shirt and instead purchased towels, socks, necessities for the 3 teenage girls. As she was leaving the store, she received a call from her husband whose job has been suffering with the recent economic situation. He informed her that he had just landed a $5000 job!
Amazing story #3: The check is in the mail.
One couple asked for the mailing address for the family. I emailed it to them. When Brian and I arrived Christmas Eve to deliver the presents and beds, I double checked to see that the family had received the ‘gift’ in the mail. I didn’t have any idea what it was. The family explained that they had used the huge check as a down payment on their ‘new’ 2000 van! The extra they used towards insurance for the year and the rest went to gas. WOW!
Amazing story #4: A double and a twin.
Christmas Eve, Brian and I are scooting around collecting the last of the items for the DSS family. Last on the list, Brian picks up the double bed.
We load up (ok Brian loads up) his truck and my car. Both are FULL of loot for this sweet family. We pull out of our driveway and are on the way. I am driving in disbelief looking in the back of Brian’s truck having a heart attack. There is supposed to be a double bed and a twin bed. But the two beds are the same size. They are both twin beds. How are 3 teenagers going to sleep on 2 twin beds. We are literally on our way. There is no time to fix the situation. I am devastated. What are we going to do?
We arrive at the family’s house. They usher us in. Shockingly, there is the yucky, dirty old mattress on the floor that the girls had been sharing and RIGHT BESIDE it is a TWIN BED that someone had donated to them. So with the additional 2 twin beds in the back of Brian's truck, each of the girls has her OWN bed for the first time in her life!
Amazing story #5: He’s 6 and likes Spiderman.
3 families. 11 children total.
Of the 11 children, 7 had names that began with S. So, when Brian got home from work on delivery day, I asked him to double check that I had all of the gifts in the right piles, with the right family. He said, ‘Jennie, this little boy only has 1 gift’. I couldn’t believe it. What are we going to do? Our friends were on their way to load up their car and deliver the gifts in the next hour. There wasn’t time to run out and get something, make it back in time, wrap it and have the deliverer there on time. So I went to the list. He’s a 6 year old boy. ‘Brian, do we have anything that we could give him?’ Our dining room table was full of gifts for our 3 nephews. 2 are 2 years old and a newborn. Absolutely nothing a 6-year-old would want.
I say, ‘He likes SpongeBob, Spiderman and toy cars.’
Brian says, ‘What did you just say?...’
‘He likes SpongeBob, Spiderman and toy cars.’
Brian says, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’
He goes to his car and comes strolling back in the house with a Spiderman fishing pole.
He had received it earlier that day, as a gag-gift from his staff because they know he likes to fish.
I wrapped it up. Now this sweet 6-year-old had 2 gifts.
In the end, each family received hundreds of dollars of grocery and Wal-Mart gift cards. But it was what happened to the family that was in special need that rocked us.
When we met the family, the father was stuttering SO bad that it was impossible for him to get a sentence out because he was SO upset. Upset that he is unemployed, upset about the fact that his girls didn’t have beds, that the electricity was about to be cut off and that the car had just been repossessed.
When we were there on Christmas Eve, he DIDN’T stutter. We left them with piles of gorgeous gifts, $1000 in grocery cards and even cash. And, the electric bill across which I had written in RED Sharpie 'PAID IN FULL'.
We also had collected household items like detergent, soap, even food, and boxes & bags of hand-me-downs for the family to look through. Sheets, bedding, shoes, clothes, etc. The father looked me in the eye, when I told him we had all these hand-me-downs for them to look through, and said, ‘Do you have anything in my size?’ And he almost cried when I said ‘YES! I have a friend who is your size and offered a huge box of clothes.’
Some friends that responded to this need didn’t have the money to donate, so they gave time, delivering gifts to the other family. We even had a babysitter who said, ‘just pay me half of what you were going to give me and give the rest to the family in need’. I had a friend that I haven’t seen or talked to since Middle School mail me a check for $60 because she had seen it on the blog.
34 people or families gave to make this a special Christmas for 3 families.
Excerpts from the book CRAZY LOVE by Francis Chan.
The Scriptures are filled with commands and references about caring for the poor and for those who cannot help themselves. The crazy part about God’s heart is that He doesn’t just ask us to give; He desires that we love those in need as much as we love ourselves. That is the core of the second greatest command, to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ Matthew 22:39
Non-churchgoers tend to see Christians as takers rather than givers. When Christians sacrifice and give wildly to the poor, that is truly a light that glimmers. The Bible teaches that the church is to be that light, that sign of hope, in an increasingly dark and hopeless world. Matthew 5:16 says, ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and PRAISE YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.’