Category Archives: Charity

Nat the Knitter

Have you ever seen someone in a casket who was buried with knitting needles in her hands? Me neither, until the other day! This morning I want to share a short story about this wonderful person. Nathalie was Rex’s mom. She was a night nursing supervisor professionally, but somehow she found time to do about a zillion other things too, like volunteering to help with blood drives. She was a Service Unit Director for Girl Scouts, ran day camps, summer adventure camps, volunteered as camp nurse, and oversaw many cookie sales. (Apparently there were sometimes large stacks of Girl Scout cookies neatly lined up in their barn!) She was also active in their church: She helped make quilts for missionaries, played the piano, and sang in the choir for many years. (The two photos below are of Nat’s granddaughters at the service; all of Rex’s kids are very musical!) Nathalie’s daughter-in-law (who’s been my prayer partner for nearing 20 years), told me that she was always busy doing something productive…and just never stopped! Nat knitted well over a thousand hats for preemies at their hospital over the years. In fact, Cindi said the last time they sat together at the hospital before her father-in-law died (just five months to the day before Nathalie joined him in heaven), Nat was still knitting while she sat at her beloved husband’s bedside. During that visit, Nat fell asleep in the chair, but while she was asleep, her hands kept knitting! Cindi said she could hardly believe it, but Nat was really asleep. It was sweet and amazing to watch!  So, Rex’s mom spent her entire adult life working hard and helping others. What a legacy!!  Now she’s in heaven with her beloved Savior and dear husband of 65 years. Rex says he knows it might not be theologically correct, but he likes to picture them together at a little cottage in the woods, where his dad can go out duck hunting and fishing. And, I wonder if his mom might still be knitting…   🙂

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-3)

Sammy: Love From a Two-Year-Old

It’s been an entire month since I mentioned anything about “our” new baby in the family here in GR, but something so touching happened yesterday that I wanted to share it with you! As any of you who have children know, parenting isn’t for sissies. I have vivid memories of crazy-tired nights rocking and nursing babies, feeling dazed and totally unsure of how I’d survive the next day on so little sleep. It was in those middle-of-the-night hours that my faith became like bedrock in my soul, because as I poured out my heart to God, crying for help, I would find that He did answer. It wasn’t the power of positive thinking, and it wasn’t magic; it was mercy and grace. In the morning, I would imagine myself grabbing my machete and chopping again…trying to cut a swathe through the dry savanna grass (which was always higher than my head) so my children and I could walk on a path…The path! God is faithful.

I didn’t know sometimes from day to day if we’d survive, but we did, and I took that as a miracle. Frankly, I believe every child who grows to adulthood as a relatively healthy, spiritually and emotionally intact person is an answer to prayer and a miracle of God’s grace!

In that light, as I read my daughter-in-law’s Facebook post today, tears of thankfulness sprang to my eyes. With her permission, I’d like to share what she wrote:“There are many moments lately where life feels crazy-busy or just sort of crazy. I have come face-to-face with the reality of my own sin nature and with my inability to be a ‘perfect’ parent more times than I realized I would. So, I was having a brief moment of personal crisis today (not really… just a few quiet tears) over lack of sleep and two needy children when the Lord gave me a sweet gift through Mr. Samuel.  “Samuel was tired and having a moment of his own crisis of toddler-proportion when I brought him upstairs to try to get him to nap. While walking him around in my arms and feeling frustrated that he wasn’t sleeping, Elanor started crying with fervor. I realized that if I put Samuel down he would likely give up on napping and possibly get upset that he had lost my attention. But Samuel instead pointed at Elanor and said, ‘Sis. Feed milk.’ So I set Samuel down to take care of the baby while he contentedly played. Soon afterward Samuel told me, ‘Down. Eat, Mommy.’ After asking him, I realized he wanted me to go downstairs to feed myself. I was incredibly touched that my two-year-old would both be perceptive and giving enough to reflect God’s love in that small act.  “Crisis averted for the time being. 😉 No, he didn’t nap. Yes, food makes us more pleasant people. But especially, what an encouragement to watch my son demonstrate love.”

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly,
since love covers a multitude of sins
” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV).

Would You Like to be Like the Men Who Built America?

After our visit to the Biltmore Estate, I wanted to learn more about the Vanderbilt family, and I discovered a really fascinating (but gut-wrenching) 5-hour historical documentary mini series from 2012 called The Men Who Built America. The series has an 8.7 rating on IMDb, won a lot of awards, and is really worth watching, if for no other reason than to inspire you to avoid oppressing those who are under you, in the work space…or anywhere else, for that matter!The Men Who Built America traces the transformation of America from the post Civil War Era to World War 1, focusing in particular on the lives of four incredibly driven, innovative, and wealthy men: Cornelius Vanderbilt (who connected America via ships and railroads),  Andrew Carnegie (who developed the steel industry, opening the way for bridges, skyscrapers and city scapes not only in America but throughout the world, making him one of the richest men on earth),  John D. Rockerfeller (who founded Standard Oil and holds the record for  being the richest man who’s ever lived, with a net worth of 392 billion [adjusted for inflation], and  John P. Morgan (wizard of corporate finance and industrial consolidation in America).  At the end, the series also touched on the life of Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company who developed the assembly line technique for mass production). I was mesmerized and horrified at the same time. The first four men were innovative geniuses who worked ceaselessly to build industrial empires. Their work did profit America as a whole, but they were also ruthless cut throats who became incomprehensible rich by oppressing the poor laborers who worked for them.  Although they became amazing philanthropists near the end of their lives, I found myself feeling frustrated and outraged by their abuse of power. Why didn’t they share their wealth with the thousands (millions?) who worked for them?  In stark contrast, Henry Ford paid his employees about 2.5 times the going wage, provided safe working conditions, and established the 5-day, 40-hour work week. Ford still became plenty rich, but he was so much better as an employer! As the stories unfolded, it occurred to me that the richest men were so busy competing with each other and oppressing everyone that it didn’t even seem like they were enjoying their lives. Today is no different! If every business owner paid their employees a living wage and shared profits more equitably, they could still be wealthy enough to enjoy an abundant life while providing abundant lives for their employees too. How is it that as a nation we’re so consumed by greed?  Can we change the men who are building America now? Can we do better, one employer at a time??? As a nation, can we vote in legislation that provides a living wage for every employee who works a 40-hour week?

Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity. Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm 62:9-10).

Ever Looking for a Quiet Place for a Retreat? Consider “The Cove!”

Have you ever had a twinge of envy that monks can live in solitude and enjoy a lifetime immersed in prayer and meditation? Twenty years ago, Alan and I had a friend who spent one week every year at a monastery down in Kentucky, and that seemed wonderfully appealing, although it never seemed practical with a brood of children to tend. However, a quiet retreat space struck us as almost utopian in appeal, so you can imagine our amazement and joy when we discovered just such a retreat opportunity in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. We were on our way “home” (to our conference site) after visiting the Biltmore Estate, when we just happened to notice a sign for Billy Graham’s “The Cove.” Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew there was a Billy Graham Library
and thought there might be some sort of museum related named The Cove, so I asked Alan if we could at least see how far it would be from the main road. As a matter of fact, if you get off I-40 at Exit 55 and turn right, it’s right there! Wow! We were totally enthralled! Tickets to the Biltmore are $65. At The Cove, we just drove in and were treated to a royal tour of their chapel… for free! Kindly volunteers explained the mission and work of Billy Graham, and introduced us to a small but impressive collection of photos concerning his lifetime ministry. Alan and I both became Christians (along with millions of others) through the ministry of Billy Graham, so it was especially meaningful to see photos from his first and last crusades. (Our son Jonathan attended his last ministry in NYC back in 2005.)A collage of photos also gave us a small, sweet window into Billy’s family life. Afterward, we were offered time to enjoy the Chatlos Memorial Chapel,
where people are welcome to play the piano or organ, sit on the chairs, or worship God standing at their 400-year-0ld English pulpit!Everyone who comes is also free to visit their prayer room, or pray while wandering through Ruth Graham’s Prayer Garden. And, people are invited to stay as long as they please. Before leaving, volunteers share the gospel (John 3:16) via a gorgeous painting
and give visitors the opportunity to write out prayer requests, which are gathered and will be prayed over at least 5 times. Our guide also prayed for us before we left. Praise God!

I don’t know if unbelievers might find this uncomfortable, but we absolutely loved the way everything was presented and didn’t find anyone intrusive or the atmosphere pressured at all.

The whole experience was one of kindness, openness,
and a warm invitation for visitors to stop and rest awhile, enjoying the presence of God, which is almost palpable there.

Before we left, we also learned that there are on-going opportunities throughout the year for personal retreats, spiritual enrichment sessions with some of America’s finest theologians, and concerts by Christian musicians. Their 1,200 acre campus also includes a youth camp and other opportunities as well as their lovely Bible conference center. Did you know? I didn’t! Would you like to go sometime? I would love to! Maybe we’ll see you there.  🙂(For more information, visit TheCove.org or call 1-800-950-2092. You might accuse me of advertising, and I guess I am, but it’s because I’d never even heard of The Cove and feel like it’s the kind of place where your soul and spirit will be truly nurtured at a charitable price! If you’re really broke, they even offer applications for scholarships.)

(I took all the photos at The Cove on May 4, 2017.)

Loving: More than a Just a Name

loving-movie-posterMuch more than just a name, Loving is “an absorbing, beautiful piece of American cinema” (Paul Heath, The Hollywood News) based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. marriage-of-richard-and-mildred-loving-from-loving-movieLoving is a PG-13, 2016 movie recently released to video that has been highly rated. It’s already won 19 awards and has been nominated for 82 more, including an Academy Award nomination for Ruth Negga in her leading role as Mildred Loving. February is Black History Month. If you haven’t watched this moving film yet, February would be a great time to see Loving and start putting love into action by understanding and loving our dark-skinned citizens more.   🙂  ruth-negga-as-mildred-in-the-movie-lovingAlthough I sat through the entire movie feeling petrified that something terrible would happen to this young couple—and they did suffer many hardships for their interracial marriage (which was still against the law in Virginia back in 1958), I was able to sigh happily at the end. Their case, trying to legitimize interracial marriages throughout America, went to the Supreme Court in 1967.   richard-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you’re a white supremacist, I beg you to look deep into your heart and try to figure out why. What makes you think white is superior to any other skin color?  I promise you that, apart from skin tissue, we’re all the same colors underneath.  richard-and-mildred-loving-with-lawyer-from-loving-movieCaucasians, Mongoloids, and Negroids are all similar in what’s inside our bodies, brains, and hearts. When I look into my heart, I find that I’m a sinner, just like everybody else. I find that I’m imperfect. I find that very, very little of what makes me “good” has anything to do with me. Some of it has to do with how I was created in the womb, who my parents were, and all the advantages I had as a child growing up. The rest is attributable to God’s redemption through Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. The only thing I can claim is believing and surrendering my life to Christ, and even that I know is a gift of God for which I can only thank Him.   mildred-and-their-first-child-in-the-movie-lovingIf you think whites are in any way superior to any other race, on what do you base that? Certainly not the Scriptures, which teach that God created all of us in His image, that we are all marred by sin and in need of a Savior, and that the death of Christ occurred to break down the walls between us and unify us into one glorious body, the Church of Jesus Christ, the bride of Christ. mildred-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you separate yourself from your brothers and sisters based on race, you’re separating yourself from the body of Christ and the love of Christ. God calls us to love and humility. Will you answer that call?the-lawyer-who-helped-in-the-movie-lovingBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
(Ephesians 1:13-22, ESV)the-movie-loving-mildred-feeding-their-baby

 

Exalta’s Free Dental Day: The Joy of Volunteering

dental-director-explaining-free-dental-day-to-volunteers-exalta-grand-rapids-miIf any of you live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and can’t afford dental care, exalta-healthI’d like to introduce you to Exalta Health, volunteers-at-exalta-grand-rapids-mia faith-based non-profit (largely funded by donations) x-rays-at-free-dental-day-exaltato help with health care needs for the poor and uninsured in our area. danielarmstrongOur son, Daniel, is the dental director there, briefing-for-free-dental-day-exaltaand a couple of times every year they offer a completely free dental day. full-waiting-room-at-free-dental-day-exaltaI probably should have written this post before—rather than after—free-dental-day-exalta-dental-caretheir last free day, which occurred last Friday. dr-armstrong-explains-procedures-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miHowever, if you’re interested, I’ll give information at the end of the post daniel-armstrong-dental-director-exalta-grand-rapids-miso that you can call and find out about when the next free dental day will occur. visual-screening-at-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThe Free Dental Day includes not only dental care, free-eye-care-at-free-dental-day-exaltabut free eye exams,  triage-nurse-at-free-dental-day-exaltasome minor medical triage,chaplain-at-free-dental-day-exalta and for those who are interested, free consultation with a chaplain. president-and-advancement-director-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta Health, (these two are our president and advancement director)exalta-health-dentistrywas formerly known as H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services, belonging to HIM). fatherson-team-volunteering-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miThis charity for the poor began 20 years ago, oral-surgeon-operating-exalta-grand-rapids-miand there are now professionals from over 2 dozen areas of healthcare  retired-husbandwife-dental-team-helping-at-free-dental-day-exaltawho volunteer their time and expertise dental-care-exalta-grand-rapids-mi to serve the needs of our under-served population. free-dental-day-extractions-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta’s motto is, “Reflecting the spirit of Christ, exalta-health-staff-and-volunteersour mission is to provide compassionate, accessible health care.” secretarial-support-and-volunteer-coordinator-at-exaltaAlthough over the past few years keeping-tools-cleaned-and-packaged-exalta-grand-rapids-miI’ve had the privilege in serving in a number of different capacities, two-generations-volunteering-together-at-exalta-health-free-dental-day-2this time I was the photographer, which was super fun. patients-waiting-for-help-at-exalta-healthIt just makes me so happy to see people come in with tooth pain smiling-patients-exalta-health-careand go out with a smile and a look of relief!  consulting-on-patient-care-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miSo, I want to encourage you in three ways:

waiting-room-at-exalta-free-dental-day*If you need help personally and live in our area,
feel free to contact Exalta Health:

https://www.exaltahealth.org/

dental-hygenists-students-from-gvsu*If you have some time to invest in caring for people in need, volunteers-waiting-for-patients-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miconsider Exalta Health as very rewarding place to volunteer. teeth-cleaning-zt-free-dental-day-exaltaThey need not only healthcare professionals and clinical support, learning-about-patients-exalta-free-dental-day-grand-rapids-mibut also volunteers who can help with general supportexalta-health-support(secretarial or maintenance skills, etc.).  volunteers-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThese were the volunteers last Friday.registration-table-for-free-dental-day-exaltaAnd, they minister to a lot of Hispanics, faithful-interpreter-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miso if you know Spanish, you’d be especially valuable! caring-for-patients-at-free-dental-day-exalta*If you live in another city but are a healthcare professional or have a heart  chaplain-serving-as-interpreter-at-exalta-healthto help the poor, look around and see what you can find in your area. oral-surgeon-helping-free-dental-day-exaltaIf there’s nothing available now, volunteer-at-exalta-healthmaybe you could be the impetus to begin something.  listening-to-orientation-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miIt is such a blessing to be a part of helping others in need!  🙂exalta-volunteersIn all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV) preparing-for-dental-treatment-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miFor the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor,
and to thy needy, in thy land
” (Deuteronomy 15:11, KJV). preparing-patient-for-x-rays-exalta-healthWe who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, ESV). dr-armstrong-working-with-a-patient-at-exalta-healthAnd we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV).

David’s House Ministries: A Moving Example of Compassion

Paul at David's House MinistriesPerhaps many of you know the biblical story of Mephibosheth. He was the son of Prince Jonathan, who was King David’s brother-in-law and dearest friend. During the civil upheaval resulting from King Saul’s jealousy of David, Mephibosheth (who was only five) was accidentally dropped by his nurse during a flight and became lame on both his feet.

Mephibosheth Before David II Samuel 9:3-6

Mephibosheth Before David II Samuel 9:3-6

Later, after both King Saul and Prince Jonathan were killed in a war against the Philistines, David became the king of Israel, but rather than killing Mephibosheth (who could have been a contender for the throne), David took him in and provided for him for the rest of his life, declaring, “he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons” (2 Samuel 9:11). David shows kindness to Methibosheth via www.freebibleimages.orgThis beautiful (true) story sets an inspiring example for us in reaching out to care for those who are disabled, and David’s House Ministries here in GR has brought this story to life in our present day.

Drawings by a resident at David's HouseStarted in 1987 by a retired minister and his wife, whose son
was developmentally disabled and would need care beyond their lifetime, Bedroom of one resident at David's HouseDavid’s House now is the permanent “home” (not just residence)Quilt on wall at David's House Ministiresfor 37 developmentally disabled men and women.Director of David's House Ministries (This sweet lady is the founders’ daughter and present director.)Plans for expansion of David's houseThey are in the process of trying to double this numberClearing Ground for David's House Ministriesto accommodate some of the 72 people on their waiting list.

Paul WiersmaYesterday I visited David’s House, where my friend Paul serves as a fund-raiser. Paul fell through the bleachers at a ball game when he was three and suffered a closed-head injury that left him disabled by seizures for years. Eventually, a surgery totally alleviated his problems and restored him to a full and joyful life. Conference Room Table at David's House MinistriesHe was working as an accountant at a bank until last year when he found out about David’s House and felt called to help with their mission, feeling a special compassion for the residents, as he might have suffered a similar fate were it not for his miraculous recovery.

Homes at David's House Ministries As we strolled through the beautiful homes and grounds,
I was struck by seeing God’s hand prints everywhere. Van for David's House MinistriesPaul told story after story of people from near and far who’ve been moved by God to contribute in various ways—not only their treasure, Kitchen at David's House Ministriesbut their talents and time,State-of-the-art equipment at David's House Ministries and the result is a sparkling, state-of-the-art community of homes Screenhouse at David's House Ministiresthat radiate peace and rest…a place where people are treated with respect and compassion…truly like “the King’s sons,” which they are!Preparing to build at David's House MinistriesIf you’re interested in learning more, there will be a ground breaking/prayer blessing on Thursday, June 16, 2016 from 12:00-1:00 pm One dining room at David's Houseat David’s House Ministries, with a light lunch following. Banner over door in one patient's room at David's HouseYou’re all invited! Just RSVP to Tiffany at: 616-284-4385 if you’d like to come!

Prep table given to David House MinistriesAlso, if you’re interested in finding out more, either about how you might be involved in this ministry or if you have someone who needs care, you can contact Paul at PWIERSMA@DAVIDSHOUSEMINISTRIES.ORG or enjoy pictures and information on their Facebook page: “David’s House Ministries.” Blessings!

Sparrows. Picture on wall of David's House MinistriesLift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way;
but let it rather be healed
” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

Design on wall at David's House Ministries(All photos were taken yesterday at David’s House Ministries.
The two drawings of Mephibosheth were from: #1.  www.omhksea.org
#2.  www.freebibleimages.org)