Missionary Letter Fall 2014
Missionary Letter Fall 2014
Prior to last month, I didn’t know one married person served by A Simple House. In the neighborhoods we visit, I simply had never met one. Many of the women have had children with multiple men, and it is rare for them to expect a long-lasting relationship. Some view marriage as an ideal meant for other people but not for themselves. For others, it just isn’t a priority. They lack examples of successful marriages in their neighborhoods and families. Without any models, they don’t envision themselves in a successful marriage.
I was surprised when Nicole told me that she planned to get married. Nicole has been a friend of A Simple House for eight years, and more recently we have gotten to know Donald, her boyfriend of several years. “Well, we want to be together forever,” she explained matter-of-factly, “so we figure we should get married.” She acknowledged that they would have difficulties, but they were committed to facing them together.
We were excited to make this wedding special for Nicole and Donald. Although they believe in God and look forward to praying with us, they have never belonged to a church. They set a date for a civil ceremony, and we offered to host a small reception at our house. The morning of the wedding, our dining room was adorned with a lace tablecloth, white candles, a bouquet of flowers, and a home-made wedding cake.
Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan. Nicole’s brother slept in and did not make it. Other relatives had said they were coming but did not show up. Nicole’s sister and mother were never really interested in coming in the first place. In the end, Simple House volunteers were the only guests at Nicole and Donald’s wedding. Because their families let them down, Nicole and Donald were visibly upset. The morning was pretty tense.
Once the ceremony began, their moods lifted. The bride and groom held hands and laughed as they exchanged vows. Ryan read a Bible passage, and Chelsea was the photographer. As we left the court building, Donald reflected on what had just happened. Although he and Nicole had already been living as if they were married, Donald commented, “Now we’ve made it right before God.”
They seemed surprised but grateful for the lunch we had prepared, and they even cut the cake together. Donald and Nicole did not consider themselves worthy of this kind of support. I hope we were able to reassure them of their worth and that they are loved.
Nicole and Donald are at a disadvantage. It is harder to persevere in doing what’s right without family support. I am glad that we were able to provide some companionship, support, and love. The missionary work of A Simple House is to love. When we offer our friendship to the poor, we offer them the love that God has given to us. Pope Francis explained that our faith cannot be transmitted through abstract ideas. It must be shared through personal relationships and the witness of love.
Jesus calls us to share His personal love with the poor. An authentic sharing of this love has no room for pity or self-righteousness. To love the poor as Jesus intends, we must love them with humility and respect. As I befriend a drug addict or a teenager with many children, I must build the friendship upon our common human dignity. Our lives are of equal value, and God loves us both infinitely. Some of the people in the inner-city may seem “too far gone,” but this is not true. God desires goodness and happiness for all people, and He wills salvation for all people. Therefore, no one is beyond hope of salvation. This is not just a nice idea; this is a tenet of our Christian faith.
The Fruits of our Ministry
This August, Clark and Laura’s godson returned to Ohio to begin his sophomore year of college. Our missionaries have had a long relationship with him and his family. He has faced challenges in his education because his family lives in poverty. Your donations allow him to continue his studies.
We are also excited for our friend Marissa. When we first met her, she suffered from anxiety that prevented her from making phone calls or taking the bus. She was seventeen years old, and she had not been to school since she was eleven. One of our missionaries helped her enroll in a residential job training program. She has earned her GED and several employment-related certifications. Later this month, Marissa will graduate from the program and move to California, where she has been accepted as an AmeriCorps volunteer!
These success stories are important, but our ministry isn’t really about success stories. We don’t measure our success in kids sent off to college, alcoholics now sober, or groceries delivered. In a ministry of friendship and love, our most important work could be praying with a mother whose son has been killed or visiting a woman who is too anxious to leave her home. The accomplishment with Nicole and Donald was not in throwing a nice wedding reception, but in loving them and supporting them. The “success” of a Simple House missionary might be continuing to love someone through their drug use, depression, promiscuity, or incarceration. This faithful love is the love that God gives to us. He continues to love each of us through our sins and our failures.
Mother Teresa said, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” He doesn’t ask us to fix one another, but to love one another. Even without any tangible fruit, an authentic act of love is good, pleasing to God, and eternal.
New Arrivals at A Simple House
In August, A Simple House welcomed new missionaries. Jimmy has joined Ryan, Chelsea, and me at our DC house. Erin, Michaela, and Kara are serving in Kansas City with Clark. These new volunteers hail from Mount St. Mary’s University, Benedictine College, and the University of Nebraska. We are blessed to have them join us and excited for the year to come. Speaking of exciting…
On August 9th, long-time volunteers Ryan and Laura Hehman welcomed their second child, baby girl Lydia Teresa. Congratulations Ryan and Laura!
Thank you for your support of our ministry, and God bless you.