Be joyful in Hope, patient in affection, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 We hear the word hope so often in our daily lives, but how often do we take notice when someone is sending us signs of hope? This last year has been so transitional for me, a time of reflection, growth, sitting, being still, observing, praying. I have needed signs of hope at times and was deliberate on being open to noticing them.
There’s this family at our church, and they are great people, they love the Lord, they put God and their family first. I know them, but I don’t really know them, you know like know all about them, their every interest, their dreams and aspirations…like that I don’t know them. But I know this about them…they are good people – once my daughter stated about them, “if being too nice was a thing, I they would qualify.”. We have daughters the same age, they have been friends through church and school. The dad he coached our oldest son’s soccer team for a few seasons. Great guy, good with the kids, faithful and prayerful with them at practices and games. He spoke truth to them in more ways than one. They’ve gone to the same pool as us, and I would chat with their oldest daughter as I made my way through the water with whatever kid couldn’t swim on their own at that time. The dad and younger daughter started selling jam outside of church to raise money for their missions trips to the Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf. They traveled together with other missionaries to the school and brought hope, love and encouragement to the students there.
As the girls were starting their freshman year of high school I woke up one day to a Facebook post about the dad…he had suffered stroke? They weren’t sure, some kind of traumatic brain injury, but he had just been sleeping on the sofa. I don’t know or need all the details, but I do know I got to watch hope unfold during one of the most horrific times of these peoples lives. I got to be in prayer for this man and his family, I got to see others come together for this too nice family and get down on their knees and ask for healing. I got to serve them by delivering a meal to the hospital for extended family and witness their hope in the Lord. And when God said no to healing and brought this man home to be with Him, I got to witness this man’s legacy. This man’s legacy of hope, and love and faithfulness…the love of his family, his church family, his friends…but what I really got to witness was the hope in the Lord these people had. I am a firm believer that bad things happen, because scripture tells us so, I believe He gives us things, good, bad, whether we want them or not, I believe He gives us these things to draw us closer to Him – what I often forget is that sometimes He gives us these things not just for us by for those around us as well, again, always for His glory. And as much as these can be comforting words while we aren’t going through anything, if I had been going through what this family was, I don’t know that those words would have comforted me in any of the moments that they were living.
As days went by, and weeks, months and now over a year…the hope that this too nice family shows blows me away. I know for certain they have hard days, they have moments of grief still, questioning, longing moments. But the moments I see, those are the hope filled ones. The ones where I see them laughing. The ones where I see our daughters giving those looks only 16 year old girls can. The ones where I see these three ladies, who long for their dad and husband continue their lives here, continue giving and loving, learning and laughing. Continue in love of these kids in a land far away…continue to give them hope. When I saw this young girl make this trip for the first time without her father last year, it burned, it hurt my heart, it stung my eyes. When I saw this girl make this trip without her father, but with her uncle and grandfather, I saw hope for her, for them. Through their tragedy, I got to grow closer to the Lord for and with them, I got to have a renewed hope for He holds it all together, He knows what’s next, He knew she would continue to give hope to these kids, to these kids who get left on the side of the road, who are either not wanted or are deemed unworthy. She shows them God’s unconditional love by continuing to show up. I have seen hope in so many places, through these too nice people.
So when it was laid on our hearts to somehow with this new venture give to this great mission I sat with the too nice mom, and asked what the needs of this trip was, and how our new venture could partner with them, I was 100% certain I was going to be asked for money to help get the missionaries there. Instead, I heard stories about the kids at the school, about how the kids don’t have anything, about how they need play clothes for weekends and holidays. I heard how the kids need things that almost all of us take for granted like tooth brushes and socks. That is how our HOPE shirt was born. I couldn’t have asked for a more divine appointment. He laid this opportunity on my heart to give these kids some play clothes. We designed several shirts before HOPE was born. We wanted these kids to remember His love, that they have hope because of this great school they go to, because people, wonderful people who love God also love them.
Let’s just say the process of making these shirts proved a little frustrating a few times (not knowing ASL, I asked that friend who shot down some designs because it didn’t make any sense -oops), the screens were not developing properly and the kids shirts were getting all fuzzy…but during those times, I put my head down into my work, I prayed for this family, I prayed for this amazing woman who daily focuses on others, I prayed for the kids who were going to get to wear these shirts, I prayed for all the people who would ever travel to this school, I prayed for the deaf community as a whole and I prayed for a renewed hope for myself. I got that screen to expose, I got all 80 shirts printed to be donated, double sided, I had all our kids helping, and they fell in love with it, the project, the design process, the shirt, the giving…they got to be part of the hope process…and even though our new venture has not taken off as we had anticipated yet, it did not stop us, it did not stop us from personally funding this project because we believe in His provisions and we have hope in what He holds in store for this venture, this journey of giving and this process gave us a renewed hope. Seeing this girl’s face and smile as she accepted those shirts on the students’ behalf. She will travel to see them this week, her joy…complete restored hope here.