Yesterday was the official beginning of the Easter season with Ash Wednesday. Many people choose to give something up during Lent in order to focus on Jesus when they reach for that chocolate or soda. Right now our Kids’ Club is learning the books of the New Testament, which prompted us to challenge them to read the 4 books in the Gospels during Lent to immerse themselves in the life of Jesus and learn about him from 4 different perspectives. What are you doing for Lent? We’d love for you to leave a comment and let us know!
From Anna Jean Carron, Sam Ausley’s sister – this is the last devotion she ever wrote:
I would like to tell you about a friend that I met. He came to me one day and asked me to be his friend, and said if you serve me and be my friend, I will be your friend. I will be your friend and I will walk with you, talk with you and be with you through trouble. I will fight your battle for you if you will stand faithful to me and be my friend. When you are sick, I will be there to touch you with my healing hand, for my love for you is an everlasting love. All I ask in return is for you to love me in return and stand faithful to me and be my friend and serve me. I will never leave you or let you down. I will even hold your hand as you walk through the door of death, but you will never fear death until I have prepared a place for you. And when that time comes, I will be there to welcome you and hold your hand. Where I am, you shall be also, if you will stand faithful to me and love me with all your heart. I will give you a book to show you how to serve me, to know me and to love me. My book is called the Holy Bible and my name is called Jesus. I said to him that I would be his friend and serve him and love him and be faithful to him. He gave me his words to live by and He has never let me down. His love for me is the greatest love of all. Now I can say the world is my classroom and the Bible is my textbook. The Holy Spirit is my guide and my home is heaven. My friend, well, his name is Jesus Christ.
As many of you already know, our church has been reaching out to truck drivers. Hundreds pass by our church every day on their way to the Port of Savannah. So many, in fact, that the City of Port Wentworth installed a speed bump right next to our sanctuary! We have been putting messages of inspiration on our sign for the truckers and in July, we handed out cold water and lunch bags at the speed bump. Ever since that day, we have been planning a Trucker Appreciation Day and decided to add first responders as well because we want all of these men and women to know how much we respect them and that we are praying for them. Yesterday was the big day: we had flyers all over town, advertised on our church sign for a month, spread the word through our Facebook page and website and of course, we had been praying. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Department showed up with their grills ready to cook out for our visitors and us after church. I had a dream that our sanctuary would be full, so I was eagerly anticipating the day.
And then I got to church.
We had no visitors. In the minutes leading up to the start of the service, I stood in the center aisle looking towards the front doors hoping that magically a swarm of truck drivers would come through the doors, but none did. And all of a sudden, my thinking changed and I paid attention to what was in front of me. Most of our congregation wore our red church t-shirts that we had asked them to wear. It was a perfectly beautiful day so I had no reason to be upset. As I walked up to make the morning announcements like I do every Sunday morning, I thought I would feel the weight of “failure” on my shoulders, but what I felt what happiness. The sanctuary seemed brighter and lighter to me than it had in a long time and I immediately proclaimed that after church we were going to enjoy the cookout and hopefully have some visitors, but most of all our neighbors would see us together as a congregation and we were going to enjoy ourselves.
More people stayed for the cookout than I expected and still no truck drivers showed up, but a beautiful thing happened. We had way too much food, so people started flagging down trucks and cars as they drove by and giving out plates of food. And as people walked and biked by, we invited them to join us and quite a few did. We took plates to shut-ins. Then our kids canvassed the neighborhood by bike and foot delivering plates door to door. As the crowd was winding down, everybody took plates with them to distribute in their own neighborhoods. The last remaining people stayed until the last plate was given out.
So, yeah, no truck drivers showed up, so our Truck Driver Appreciation Day could be viewed as a failure. But so many truck drivers saw what we were doing yesterday and believe me, if you are a truck driver that goes by our church, you know you are loved! And even better, our entire neighborhood was shown the love of God yesterday. Most by our kids! And our congregation worked together in a way that we don’t normally. So, no, yesterday was not a failure!
God had a different plan for us yesterday and I am so thankful that we were open to it and we didn’t let the fear of failure overshadow it!
Have you ever been discouraged by your own failures? Have you ever tripped over your inadequacies and shortcomings so many times, you are sick of yourself? That’s when you need to stop and think about how much God loves you. You need to close your eyes and say, “I am a dearly beloved child of God.”
Your mind might argue with you. It might interrupt your meditations and say, How can you even think that, you ugly thing! You are always making messes He has to clean up. You are forever pestering Him to give you something. Why would God ever love a mess like you?
I can tell you why He loves you – because He is your Father. He has within Him the kind of love for you only a father or a mother has. He has an inner drive to meet your needs. He sees in you His very own image and delights so much in who you are that He is willing and eager to do whatever it takes to help you grow up.
Think about the love of a natural parent, and you can easily understand that. The Bible says we get the similitude of our parenthood from God, and everyone knows there’s just something about a newborn baby that makes his parents love him. They may not have even wanted to have a baby nine months before, but when they take that little fellow in their arms, they fall in love with him. Suddenly, all the pain, all the money it’s going to cost them to raise him, all the sleepless nights they’ll have to endure, seem like nothing in comparison to the worth of this dearly beloved child.
In the days to come, they’ll comfort him countless times when he cries. They’ll change myriads of diapers, wash piles of extra laundry because the baby spits up on everyone’s clothes. But, all that will be wiped out when those tiny hands reach out for them. Their hearts will melt with love and they’ll say, “Isn’t he beautiful?! Isn’t he the most precious baby you’ve ever seen?!”
That’s the kind of love your heavenly Father has for you. The reason your heart reaches out to Him and says, “Abba! Father!” is because His heart reached out to you first and said, “Beloved child of My heart! I loved you so much I sent Jesus. I love you so much I’ll never forsake you. I’ll be with you always – even to the end of the world.”
Sometimes, it’s hard to receive that kind of love when you’ve failed or fallen. But that’s when you need it most. That’s when you need to run to the One who loves you like no one else can.
Here in Port Wentworth, we deal with truck drivers constantly because the Port of Savannah is in our little town and every month it sets new records in its capacity. The city actually installed a speed bump in the street right next to our church due to the high volume of trucks driving by on a daily basis. During the week we hear the clanging and banging of the containers as the trucks go over that speed bump and many times during Sunday worship, we hear that same sound. Instead of getting frustrated with our reality, Bro. Gary realized we should embrace it. Without the men and women driving these trucks, we would be homeless, hungry and naked! We need to appreciate these hard working folks and so we do.
Nine weeks ago we started changing our church sign every Monday to reflect our well wishes to our truck driver friends and it has caused quite a stir. We have truckers stop and take pictures and talk to us regularly and one actually accepted Jesus Christ right by our sign! We understand that these drivers are met with a lot of resentment and anger, so we are happy that they are able to see that our church on the corner with a heart is praying for them and appreciates them.
Our plan is to expand the church sign messages into various ministries as God reveals to us what that may be. Bro. Gary has already been approached about starting a weekly Bible study at a local business specifically for truck drivers! We ask that you pray for us as we move forward in this ministry that is sure to grab the attention of many and lead them to the Lord!
Last Wednesday, May 2, was a heartbreaking day at our church. Around 11:30 that morning, a military C-130 aircraft crashed about a mile from our church killing all 9 servicemen on board and causing our neighborhood to shake. The miracle of it is that they crashed on a very busy highway and not a single car was hit. Many of our church members, including myself, were either in the area or had just been there. The plane also missed a gas station by mere yards. As we were trying to make sense of it all, a long-time member of our congregation passed away that same day. Two completely unrelated situations, but both leaving us with a sense of loss. One we understand and can explain to our children as we celebrate a life well lived. The other we are still trying to grasp. We watch the news every day for more information and see the road blocks on the way to everywhere right now. As sudden and unexpected as my mother’s illness and death were, they were nothing compared to this. I can’t imagine how the families of these men must feel right now. I wish I could hug every single one of them. I wish I could thank the pilot of the plane who crashed into the right spot at the right time in order to not sacrifice any of our lives. I wish this had never happened. But it did.
In life, there are so many things I wish would never happen. But they do.
This is when my faith is so important because so many times I never get the answer to the question, “Why?” I have to trust that God is in control of whatever situation and that I will be okay as long as I trust in Him. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes this is hard, but I continue to surround myself with people who also have faith so they can lift me up when I am down. We need to stick together always and celebrate the good times and hold each other together during the impossible times. And we need to be in prayer during it all.
I, along with my church, would like to take the time to thank and honor from the Puerto Rico National Guard:
Maj. José R. Román Rosado
Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra
1st Lt. David Albandoz
Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini
Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred
Master Sgt. Mario Braña
Master Sgt. Víctor Colón
Master Sgt. Eric Circuns
Senior Airman Roberto Espada
Matthew 5:12 “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven.”