My friend Mary gave her life to Jesus Christ when she was thirteen. At sixteen, she recalls hearing the Great Commission for the first time during a Sunday School class. God’s Word was planted like a vibrant seed in Mary’s heart that day, and it has been growing and bearing fruit for many years–now more than ever.
But Mary’s life has not been a bed of roses. It’s been more of a roller coaster with bitter lows of pain and suffering. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager, then her own marriage ended in her 30s, leaving her to raise her two children as a single mom. But Mary never gave up, and more importantly—God never gave up on her!
I met Mary more than 20 years ago when she was a part of a single-adult ministry that Craig and I were honored to serve in. We watched God heal Mary’s brokenness and build into her a mighty strength of trust in Him. Stronger than ever, she began pouring life into others and joined our ministry and worship teams. Mary was also part of the small core group that helped launch our church.
Fast-forward several years. Mary boldly and courageously took a step of obedience and started a ministry to the homeless community in downtown Oklahoma City. Attendees enjoy a meal with friends prior to their evening of worship and Bible teaching. She has joyfully given countless hours to listen, plan, build, teach, and serve those whom most overlook.
But Mary didn’t begin this journey as an expert or with any assurances of smooth sailing. No. The huge amount of learning and personal growth came with every step of obedience. Mary explains, “I never took classes at a university to learn this stuff. God has been my instructor all the way–and still is!”
Like all of us, the homeless have broken souls that without Christ Jesus have no chance of true wholeness. They also greatly need mentors and support groups to be Jesus to them.
One young man Mary ministered to was a college graduate in his thirties. This man’s family rejected him because he became a follower of Christ, but after two suicide attempts, his struggle with addiction, and his homelessness, Mary was there for him. He successfully went through rehab and is not only surviving but thriving. This man isn’t the only one who was impacted by Mary’s ministry. Every week, God brings hope and salvation, and sets the captives free!
It takes people like Mary, people who will go through the ugly, sticky mess with someone until the healing rain comes. It takes time. Time to listen, give counsel and pray to our Great Physician, Jesus.
Mary, like Jesus, is full of love and compassion. She says, “If you had asked me years ago if I would one day give my life as a servant to the homeless, I wouldn’t have known how to even begin to answer that question. To be used by God in this way has not only been the hardest thing I have ever done, but other than my family is the most rewarding part of my life. I count them all as my dear friends. I am so humbled that God is allowing me not only to serve them, but also to learn from them.”
Can others see your love? God wants all of His children to radically serve others! It doesn’t matter if you are homebound with little ones or working full-time behind a desk. You can serve anywhere—at home, at work, in church, or with a local ministry. All are valid ways of serving. We all encounter people, and all people need love and truth.
So what is God leading you to do today? Ask Him, wait, listen, and watch for His guidance. You never know what great joy will follow your steps of obedience!
Sometimes love is something you can see.