Christmas is such a sweet time for family and friends to gather, laugh and love on each other. But what about those that do not have anyone or maybe those that don't have family nearby? As my husband, Boogie, and I were talking about the holidays and our desire for our home to be a place of ministry, he reminded me of a story from when he was a child that I knew I wanted to share on the blog with you today.
Boogie grew up in a home where the door was always open. I remember his house being the place all the kids in the youth group wanted to be. But there is one man, Mr. Donnie, that he remembers his parents welcoming in at Christmas. Although he didn't understand or really "get it" at the time, looking back he has a great appreciation for what his parents lived out in front of him for so many years.
Mr. Donnie went to church with them, he did not have children and his wife was deceased. He was always alone. He was a veteran that had lived a hard life and struggled making ends meet. Most people at church would turn the other way or even stare as he would walk the halls. Mr. Donnie smelled at times and never had too much to say.
My father-in-law, Brian, had compassion for him and knew he had to do something. So the tradition began, Brian invited him to their home for a hot meal, a warm place to stay and practical gifts that he needed. You see, Mr. Donnie's living conditions were unimaginable for most of us; a trailer that was falling apart, no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. Brian would go pick him up at his house and bring him to theirs. As they would gather around the dinner table, they would talk about Mr. Donnie's favorite southern gospel groups and he would share many stories about his life, and then they would move downstairs to watch old videos.
My husband remembers it being awkward at times to make conversation with Mr. Donnie and not knowing what to say. What really has stuck with Boogie through the years is the impact his parents had on so many that just needed love. As the years went on, Mr. Donnie was placed in a nursing home where Brian would still go visit him.
Although Mr. Donnie was a man of very few words and they received very little thanks, that's not what it was about for them. They may not know the impact they had on Mr. Donnie this side of heaven. Until then, Boogie's parents instilled in him a love for people that is so evident in his life today.
There are several lessons from Scripture we can learn from this story and the life of Mr. Donnie.
1. Our homes are a place of refuge not only for us, but also for others. Matthew 25:34-46
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
2. We should always be aware of those around us that are lonely. Philippians 2:4
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
3. As adults, our lives become richer when we extend love to those in need. 1 Corinthians 16:14
Let all that you do be done with love.
4. As parents, we are setting an example for our children that will stick with them for years to come. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
As a family, we try to be intentional to find individuals or families that either don't have someone or don't live near family at Christmas and invite them into our home. Your home doesn't have to be perfectly clean and decorated and you sure don't have to have it all together. Your extension of love and authenticity are all anyone is looking to receive! Who is it that you can reach out to this year? You still have plenty of time to invite someone! Pray and ask the Lord to show you.
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!