Running To It

BY MARON GAFFRON, DIRECTOR OF WORSHIP ARTS

My sister, Felicia, is one who runs to it, sometimes to the great distress of her worrisome older sister - me. She can often be found evangelizing in the park, toddlers in tow, asking perfect strangers how she may pray for them. She carries evangelistic literature in the back of her stroller for just such an occasion. She actively looks for opportunities to engage with people. Man or woman, young or old, scary-looking or otherwise, it makes no difference to her. I worry because this flies in the face of our strict childhood policy of “don’t talk to strangers.” But her passion drives her to action and my fears for her safety are constantly being eclipsed by the incredible things God is doing in her and through her.
 
Just before Christmas of last year, Felicia and her husband Eric announced to the family that they would be receiving their first foster child, an 8-year-old girl named Melody. My first thought was how special it was going to be to have this little girl for Christmas. “She’ll be just like Little Orphan Annie and we’ll shower her with gifts! We’ll sing! We’ll dance! Where are my tap shoes?” My second thought was less sanguine. “I love my sister, but… Is she crazy?!?!” A new mom herself, Felicia had a one year old, and a 3-month-old baby when she volunteered to add an 8-year-old to the mix. Did she really know what she was taking on? Adding an older child seemed preposterous to me. And what about this new girl? Did she have behavioral issues? Was she a ‘troubled child’? Would my 2 small nieces be safe?
 
Melody is spirited. She is delightfully freckle faced, vibrant and full of spunk! Her early years were what I would call hellish. She had been severely abused. The emotional trauma is most evidenced in her sudden outbursts. She carries the pain of abuse and neglect, yet somehow despite a total lack of nurturing in her formative years, she is incredibly compassionate. She took to my 2 nieces like they were her own sisters.
 
My sister took her to church. She filled Melody’s life with worship songs. Her favorite song became “You Make Me Brave.” Felicia worked hard to help bring her reading skills up to speed, and soon Melody began to excel in school. There were field trips, school dances and pinewood derby’s. There were chore charts, dinnertime battles and long nights of homework. There were therapy sessions, house visits and court appointments. For all the good and all the struggle, Melody finally experienced some stability. She also knew the love of a family. She called my sister “Mom” and my brother-in-law “Dad.” She had new aunts and uncles and grandparents who adored her. When she turned 9, my sister gave her a birthday party. It was the first birthday party Melody had ever had. It was full of all the new people in her life who loved her, including me, the auntie she affectionately referred to as “Tee-Tee.”
 
Melody spent 7 months in my sister’s care. In that time, I faced a major life overhaul. I first came to Grace Church in January of this year, only a few weeks after Melody had been introduced into our lives. I remember having to choose the songs for my initial ‘audition’ weekend. As I prayed over my song selections, one particular song would not leave my mind: Melody’s favorite “You Make Me Brave.” I was so inspired by the bravery this little girl demonstrated, being placed into a new environment for an indefinite period. She had to meet hundreds of new people between her new school, church, and family. She was essentially on her own facing each new day and the challenges that day would bring. But God made her strong. Despite her pain, God made her resilient. Despite an uncertain future, God made her brave. I had to sing that song as I stepped into the unknown. I had to sing it with her story in mind. I had to tell her that she inspired me to be brave, and by doing so, she changed my life.
 
The word came suddenly, that Melody would be moving to Pennsylvania to live with her father and 2 younger sisters. We only had a few days’ notice. Frantically, I tried to figure out a way to get to my sister’s house in time to say a proper goodbye to the child who had so altered my life forever. But as part of that freshly altered life, I had obligations that kept me from being able to leave at a moment's notice. But Melody insisted she had to see “Tee-Tee” before she left. So my sister drove her 3 hours to come see me, on Melody’s last night. It was the night of our Prayer Gathering. My heart had been burdened all night with the knowledge that she was leaving us for good the next day. The lyrics I sang that night were from songs that I had chosen many days prior to learning that Melody would be moving away. One verse above all others will remain in my mind as I remember that night:
 

The hopeless have found their hope, the orphans now have a home. All that is lost has found its place in You. You lift our weary head, you make us strong instead. You took these rages and made us beautiful.

 
My sister, Felicia, is one who runs to it. She ran to Melody. Melody so desperately needed someone like Felicia to love her in her brokenness and bring healing where there was only pain. I needed Melody. I needed to learn from her example of bravery. She is an inspiration.
 
She left us the next day, cramming all her earthly belongings into a van with her 2 younger sisters, and all their earthly belongings. They began the arduous journey to their new home in Pennsylvania. Already, Melody is again being thrown into another situation that will require great bravery from her. Her young father went from living alone, to being responsible for 3 girls. They need our prayers. Pray that a Christian will run to them in Pennsylvania.
 
I pray to be more like my sister. Lord, show me where there are ‘Melody’s’ around me. Help me as I actively look for opportunities to bring healing to the 6 broken places. Help me run to it. 

Time to Run to It

As we've been talking about in Formerly Known as Christian, if you call yourself a Christian it comes with expectations. We are called to live differently than others by running to the broken places, the weak, the weary, the lost. If you're wondering how you can "run to it" and aren't sure where to start, here are four great ways to jump in. What are you waiting for?

  1. Serve in the Care Center. Each week, over 600 people visit the Grace Care Center. To make this happen, we need people to volunteer in the food pantry, provide green bags filled with groceries, teach ESL classes and more. See how you can get involved.

  2. Serve with a Partner Ministry. Did you know that Grace partners with over 40 organizations locally and around the globe. From short-term foster care to feeding the homeless to mentoring kids, each ministry has ways you can dive right it. Learn more here.

  3. Volunteer with a Connecting Team. Coming to church for the first time can be a big step in a person's journey. What would you want others to experience upon visiting Grace for the first time? Join the first impressions team and make a difference.

  4. Serve Students & Kids. Let's face it, the world is a difficult place and kids and students need healthy role models and community more than ever. Lives are changed when these young people have mentors who can love them and guide them. Run to these kids/students.  

Comments

Thank you, Mark. It is an honor to serve our Lord, and a privilege to do so here at Grace Church.

Posted by Maron Gaffrom on August 10, 2017 @ 4:30 pm

Wow! What a story! Thank you for bringing to life Dave Rod's sermon from a few weeks ago.

Posted by Mark Hartman on August 1, 2017 @ 7:07 am