I'm a little ashamed that it has taken me so long to share this story. But I have learned in 43 years that what seems like my delays usually matches God's timing perfectly.
To recap: I took Chris, Ashley and our friend David to San Francisco in February. It was a trip I had wanted to make for years - since Seth and Maria moved their with their lovely family and started a church. It was a project I had prayed for each day. It was a town I knew nothing about because my friends shared a passion for the people, I shared their burden. In January I knew I needed to go.
Plans were made. Tickets bought and off we went.
I told David shortly before we left, "I don't know who God wants us to go, but I know I must." The kids and I had done Bible studies before we went, studying the prophets of the old testament whom God sent to warn the people of their sin and declare how to be free. We read how God even told prophets, "they will not listen to you but you must tell warn them anyway," (Ezekial 2:5). We studied the importance of Obedience.
For months a piece of paper has hung in our office that declars, "Obedience in the Go." That's what we were doing.
We arrived in San Fran to beautiful weather. Ate at In-and-Out Burgers. Maria took us to a beautiful overlook site where we could see the entire Bay area. She shared interesting facts about the Bay and about the people and her love for the City was evident. On Sunday, we attended service with them and that night walked through China Town and ate some amazing food! Monday we toured Alcatraz and then met with Seth and the kids who took us to the Pier and Ghiradelli Square - chocolate heaven!
On Tuesday morning, Maria picked us up at our hotel and we headed into the Castro district to work in one of the city's 122 food pantry distribution centers. San Francisco is 7x7 miles square. There are over 1 million people living in these 12 hills. And over 30% of them cannot meet adequate caloric intake to maintain a healthy weight. Amazing.
The Castro district is known as the homosexual hub for the town and probably the United States. In a town were nudity is legal, I wasn't sure what would see. A drive through the district on Saturday had revealed two men in g-strings and running shoes. Ashley declared, "Mom, I cannot unsee that. Ever!" Having two teenage boys with me as well as a young teenage girl, I prepped them that morning for what we might see.
What I felt God leading me to teach then was simple: People are People. God loves them. Sin is Sin - no matter what form it takes. One sin is not greater than the other. The sin of Gossip is not lesser than then any sexual sin, nor is it greater. It separates us from God. It destroys the plan He has for our lives. In the hotel room, we joined hands and prayed, "God, let us see People. Your People. Not sin. Not a lifestyle. Not a difference. Just people." And off we went to work.
And work we did!
Working alongside community members and members at a local Foursquare church we helped Pastor Dan prepare food bags of oranges, potatoes, onions, beans, rice, and other goodies. It was hard work! Ashley got overheated at one point and the sweet little ladies from Malaysia sat her down and fed her oranges and water. We were instantly and irrevocably in love! The boys were in the back alley, breaking apart carts and cases and bags of produce to repackage them for distribution. Then when all was ready the doors were opened and we gave out bags of food. Over 200 bags of food!
We had hundreds and hundreds of Mandarin oranges we gave out that day - to the Chinese this was very important. It was their New Year and the Mandarin represented good luck. They were so thankful for the little orbs of goodness and thanked so repeatedly.
It was three hours of hard labor that left you smiling!
We gave out food; moved around sacks so they were easier to distribute; checked food cards, gave out loaves of bread; broke down boxes. It was great!
At the end, a middle-aged man approached me.
"Honey, can I ask your name?" he said. I told him my name was Kim. He look at me in amazement! I thought I was surely missing something. As he told me his story, he said he had been watching Ashley and I work and kept thinking, "she looks like my sister-in-law." Guess her name - Kim!
As we talked, I learned his name was Raymond. His Sister-in-law, Kim, was his favorite relative. He said my energy matched hers. That I even looked like her.
I laughed. God has a sense of humor! I asked if he attended church there with Pastor Dan. He smiled. No. He believed in God. Knew there was a God but he long ago given up on him.
"Raymond," I replied, "God hasn't given up on you. Why else would he send a woman and two kids half-way across the country to work in a food pantry that looks like, acts like and has the same name as your favorite Sister-in-law?"
His story broke my heart. He was raised in Missouri - not too far from where we came from in Oklahoma. His parents were ministers with the same denomination my parents had been ministers. Somewhere along the line, he chose an alternate lifestyle. His family disowned him. When he came to a relatives wedding, he was met at the doors and told he was unwelcome because he was a sinner. He was a shame to the family. Only his sister-in-law had talked with him. He eventually moved to California and had no further contact with family. He missed his neices and nephews. He grieved the loss of family.
"You are so loved, Raymond," I told him. "God sent someone with the same background as you to tell you He loves you."
Ashley came up then and introduced her to my new friend. Chris followed shortly. I introduced my son too. I asked if I could take their picture. This man's smile was huge. He was loved and accepted by people that God had sent to Him.
We may never know this side of Heaven the impact on His life.
But I know the impact on our life.
We obeyed. God used us to be His hands and feet and Heart.
Raymond - I will always remember you and pray for you and love you.
I'm looking for pics! I can't find on my new computer! I will post as soon as I can find them!