INSIDE STORY: Isn’t that what’s it’s all about?
Thirty-six hours and 1,100 miles later, my wife, three children and I ended up here in Wilkesboro, a charming town along the Yadkin River in the foothills of both the Blue Ridge and Brushy mountains.
I still don’t much enjoy standing in front of a crowd, and my 13-year-old son, Brady, laughed at the notion of his not-so-trendy dad engaging a group of teenagers. But my public speaking skills have improved over the years. By that, I mean I can string together complete sentences and not drown in a sea of my own sweat.
Besides, I live in a drought-stricken patch of flatland known as Oklahoma. I really wanted to see North Carolina — with its mountains and leaves in a million shades of crimson, rust, gold and pumpkin orange — this time of year.
Wilkesboro’s scenery did not disappoint. But the fantastic, hard-working teens — and parents — we met were even better. What an inspiring, refreshing experience to drive across the country and immediately feel a connection with fellow Christians who love God and are concerned with how best to show Jesus to their neighbors.
That Friday night, Rob Giesbers, minister of the North Main church in Mount Airy, N.C., delivered one of his memorable “three-point” messages. He challenged all of us to serve people with hospitality, compassion and love.
That Saturday morning, the young people and adults — including the Ross family — put Rob’s challenge into action. We filled our vehicles with cleaning supplies and drove to a nearby apartment building to offer our services for free. We didn’t wash anybody’s feet, but we did clean the inside of strangers’ toilets.
That night, I reflected on Galatians 6:9, the theme verse of the rally: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I talked about the many Christians I have been blessed to meet — through my work with The Christian Chronicle — who have encountered difficult situations in their lives. Yet their faith, their trust in God, has allowed them to press on despite the obstacles. They have not become weary in doing good.
I mentioned Charles and Angela Marsalis, survivors of Hurricane Katrina, who returned to New Orleans to minister to their beleaguered community. I mentioned Jerry Mitchell, the Jackson, Miss., church member whose investigative reporting has brought justice in several Civil Rights Era murder cases. I mentioned Army Spc. Chris Rutter, the Clinton, Mo., preacher’s son who lost both his legs in Iraq — but not his hope.
And, I could not resist the opportunity to mention my own parents: Bob and Judy Ross. When I think of people in my own life who exemplify “Service With A Smile,” I think of them. For nearly 25 years, they have worked as houseparents at a Christian children’s home in Keller, Texas.
Now, in the world’s eyes, my parents may not qualify as success stories. For her 24-hour-a-day ministry, my mother probably earns less an hour than I did flipping McDonald’s burgers as a teenager. My parents have never owned their own home. My dad carries a sack lunch to the Walgreen’s pharmacy where he works in inventory control.
But in God’s eyes, I can’t imagine any greater success stories than these people I am privileged to call my parents. If a girl over age 12 arrives at Christ’s Haven for Children, chances are good that she will be placed in Cottage No. 4 — my parents’ home.
Mom and Dad have provided food, clothing, guidance and love to the girls in their care. But even more importantly, they have afforded them a priceless opportunity to know God.
My mother said she and Dad always wanted a mission to bring people to Christ. At Christ’s Haven, they found it. They study the Bible with all the girls in their care, and Dad baptizes many of them.
Quite simply, their ministry to abandoned, abused and neglected children leads souls to God.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?