Jill Jarrell Newsome
This summer I loved hearing the country song, “My Hometown”, especially when I was sitting on the water. The lyrics are, “I ain't the runaway kind, I can't change that. My heart's stuck in these streets like the train tracks.” Not only is my community important to me, but as my grandmother and my father, I have always been proud of Wilmington! I have to say that in the last few years I am heartbroken by some of our statistics. My pastor has been sharing them with us. If we want to see change in our city, it has to start with us! When people are hurting, it breaks Jesus’ heart. Why are we to care about people? John 13: 34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And the Bible shows us how to help others. Who are we to help? Luke 10: 29, “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” I say, anyone who Jesus places in front of us!
We had a "neighbor" come speak at our church. Elena, from the Soviet Union, came and shared how the Operation Christmas Child shoe box ministry impacted her life! She and her sister came from a broken home. Her parents got paid with alcohol so there was no food. Darkness fell over their house at night, after drinking all day, their dad would come home and abuse their mother. After stealing, her parents went to prison. She and her sister went to a temporary orphanage where they got to go to public school and start the first grade together. They provided each of them a caregiver which meant she did not have to be the parent, protector, friend, mom, dad, sister and provider anymore. That was a lot of weight on an eight year old. Her favorite thing was getting three meals a day! And snacks. After two years they were sent to another orphanage when their parents decided they did not want them anymore. She and her sister should have been moved to separate places but God kept them together. She was no longer in public school and this permanent orphanage was different. As a female, she had no hope. At 18 you are kicked out, even if you only have a seventh grade education. The only way for a female to ensure putting food on the table was to prostitute. Elena was at her lowest point, feeling unloved and like a nobody.
Elena did not know she had a birthday because it had not ever been celebrated so she nor her sister had ever received a gift. God chose to give her and her sister a shoe box. Hers was so pink, shiny and sparkling on the outside that she was afraid to open it. Also, if her sister didn’t like what she got she would trade with her. Elena said it is so obvious God knows each child and gets the right shoe box to the right child. Her sister was artistic and had nothing to express this gift. Everything in her shoe box was art related - paint, crayons, coloring book, markers and red leather pants! Because of the biggest smile she ever saw on her sister's face, she got the courage to open her shoe box. Elena said, “God knew me before I knew myself. He gave me everything pink!” Pink toothbrush, a teddy bear which became her best friend, a pink pen.
Elena said she felt like I was loved, not just someone taking up space. A stranger took the time to go buy stuff for me. The booklet that came on top of the shoe box was called “The Greatest Gift” and was written in her language. She read the greatest fairy tale about a man called Jesus who was the Creator of everything and He came to die for her. He did that for an orphan! Her parents didn't even love her but this Jesus did! This booklet gave her hope and she began to pray for a family for her and her sister, together. An American family adopted them. Her adopted father learned to say, I love you in their native language. They had never heard that before. Elena said instead of being a prostitute she is able to go to churches and share her testimony through Operation Christmas child. God blessed Elena by using a small pink shoe box to change her life. Until the shoe box comes a lot of children do not know there is a Heavenly Father fighting for them. Never underestimate the difference you can make! “You don’t have to do something big to do something great for God!”
What neighbor is God calling you to help?