I was taking one of our guys (Tony) to Michigan to "get right with the state" and had planned while there to visit a fellow missional guy (David Drake) in Grand Rapids to glean from the practitioners. We surely did learn so much from him and believe that his approach to being the church in and for your city is wonderful. But my biggest missionary surprise was yet to come.
Tony's mom (Mary) is one of those women you hear about that is tough and loving and just knows how to take care of a family. She raised five boys and served and suffered with her husband through a mental breakdown.She's just one of those kind of gals. Little over a decade ago, while working at a state hospital for the mentally ill, she met three wonderful ladies Ruthie, Mary Jean and Joni.
All were in their 60's and had lived in state hospitals since they were little girls. While working there she became aware of a very evil, unspeakable, exploitation of these women. She reported it to the authorities and all the perpetrators will serve the rest of their lives in prison thanks to her. But the victims, these precious women, what about them? They were non-responsive, couldn't talk, curled up in the fetal position. Well what happened next blew my missionary mind.
Mary decided that she would get certified by the state to take these victims into her own home so that they would be safe from abuse and loved in their later years, fully aware that they had nothing to offer her in return. No, they wouldn't recover, no, they would never get stabilized, never get their act together, never have have a productive life, simply, by taking them into her home she had resigned herself to a lifetime of service, a service that would offer her little and perhaps no reward and much labor. Ever changed a 60 year old's diaper?
The meaningful lesson I learned from this wonderful lady is this: The reason that you help people is for love's sake, for helpless people's sake, for God's sake, NOT for the sake of what you will get out of it or even more profoundly, for what they will get out of it. Jesus was "moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." So he did something, he taught them, healed them, cared for them and in case after case the Bible records that the people didn't respond to Him in faith, instead they left, healed and helped but unchanged. Yet, he did it anyway. Why? Because He was filled with love and "moved with compassion". He served them and serves us indiscriminately, tirelessly because we need it and love demands it.
I met them twelve years later, after she had loved them and cared for them patiently and carefully. She said Joni began talking again after three years and she smiled after about four. Suddenly, little by little, these deeply mentally handicapped victims of horrible abuse, came back to life. "It's birthday party day!" Mary Jean exclaimed as I came in full of smiles and joy. They talk together with big smiles in largely indiscernible words, Ruthie draws happy faces all day on paper after paper, Joni still has to wear mits at night to keep her from hurting herself, but they are safe and happy and it's all due to the love of a woman who, though she didn't know if she would ever do anything more for them but change their diapers and feed them, rescued them anyway. Wow!
Honestly, I may serve the Lord for the rest of my life and never see a more wonderful scene. It's sublime, its over my head, its wonderful, it brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart in untouched places. "When you've done it unto the least of them, you've done it unto me" said our Lord Jesus. Well Mrs. Mary Kennedy, you have surely done it to our Lord Jesus. Well done!
Is it even possible to hear what needs to be said next?
Go and do likewise.