I have heard many sermons focused on the “father” heart of God. But this past Mother’s Day, I spoke to three packed church services about the “mother” heart of God — that tender, nurturing heart that cannot hear a baby cry and not want to pick it up; that cannot see a hungry boy and not want to feed him; that cannot see a little girl sold into sexual slavery and not want to move heaven and earth to set her free.
It is the heart that cannot pass by pictures of needy children on a World Vision sponsorship table without taking one home, as so many at Whittier Area Community Church in Whittier, California, have done.
Over the past eight years, church members have sponsored 500 children in two critically impoverished areas of Malawi. They have also raised funds to dig wells, build a pediatric hospital, and enable local churches to reach out in godly compassion to the many people in the area who are either infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.
But just as a mother’s work is never done, World Vision’s work in the Nkhoma and Chilenje areas of Malawi is not done. Amazingly, over 200 additional children were sponsored at the church the morning I spoke.
As I looked out over the congregation, I could see the compassion on their faces as I shared about the continuing needs of the children we serve. To be honest, it was amazing to me that after eight years they hadn’t lost their passion for this life-giving ministry. It is easy to feel deeply about something that takes you by surprise. But it is harder to keep that passion going over the long haul.
After the second service, Mr. Arthur Ornelas, a dapper gentleman in his early 80s came up to greet me. I was immediately charmed by his smile and the sparkle in his eyes. He thanked me for the message, saying it had touched his heart. Then he handed me an envelope.
“I want you to have this prayer letter,” he said. “I can’t get out there and do a lot at my age, but I can write letters to encourage my children and grandchildren and friends in the Lord. I call my letters ‘for the glory of God’ and this one is about learning to give.”
The next day, I read Mr. Ornelas’ letter and was so blessed that I would like to share part of it with you.
My grandchildren laugh when I tell them that I no longer pick up stuff from the street (I used to be a habitual collector!) and that everything that I have “picked up” is no longer in my home. Today, I find myself giving away items that I no longer need. As someone once said, “We haven’t learned to live until we’ve learned to give!”
Many people in affluent countries have become burdened by the accumulation of material goods they no longer need or use. They have a hard time getting rid of things that clog their houses and businesses. One woman I know had to hire a professional organizer to help her let go of things!
But the Bible says, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living and the dead” (Ruth 2:20).
Years ago I read a story about a man named H. H. Lee. At one end of the truck terminal where Mr. Lee worked was a coal company. Nearby was a railroad track, and each day several freight trains passed by. He often noticed that the owner of the company, who was a Christian, threw chunks of coal over the fence at various places along the track. One day he asked the man why he did this.
The man replied, “An elderly woman lives cross the street and I know that her pension is inadequate to buy enough coal. After the trains go by, she walks along and picks up the pieces. She thinks they have fallen from the coal car behind the engine. She doesn’t realize that diesels have replaced steam locomotives. I don’t want her to be disappointed so I just throw some pieces over the fence.”
That story hits home with me. When I was a boy, we often had to scramble to get enough to eat. I want to thank all the Santa Fe Winery drivers for letting us take home grapes on our bicycles. It was only through acts of kindness like this that the Ornelas family survived. And so did Ruth in the Bible.
“When Boaz saw Ruth gathering grain behind the reapers in his field, he commanded them to leave some handfuls of grain for her. To her, this was a blessing from the Lord.”
He ended the letter with this quote: “Kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life.”
Meeting Mr. Ornelas was one of the special blessings of my Mother’s Day. As he walked away he looked back and said with a smile, “Now I’m going to get myself another child.”
I now understand why this church has not lost its “mother” heart for the children of Malawi. They have members like Mr. Ornelas who are living each day for the glory of the Lord!