During December, I always have hundreds of children come through my home for a Christmas tour. I want all of the children to understand who is the real reason for this very special season. Early in the fall, I had to make an important decision. It was time to start decorating, but I only had one group of children signed up to come. It is a massive undertaking to get everything ready for these tours. It requires weeks of work. As I prayed, I asked God if it was worth it to get everything ready for only one group of children. God immediately convicted me that I was asking the wrong question. I was not looking at the opportunity He was giving me with God’s eyes. Ministry is never about the numbers. I repented and asked God to forgive me for not valuing children the way He values children.
It was wonderful what happened next. As soon as I made the decision to do all the work, even if God only sent me ONE child, many groups began to call in and schedule tours. When all was said and done, five hundred children and adults came through the house this December. All of them were told about God’s great rescue plan and how Jesus could give them hope. Children asked me if I would be their grandmother, or their mother. They asked me if they could come and live with me. Consider that none of these children had ever met me before in their life. Perhaps now you can understand how difficult life is for some children.
One evening, I was out with very dear friends, looking at a train display. A pretty little blonde-haired girl came running up to me. She smiled and said, "Do YOU KNOW about the CHRISTMAS HOUSE?" I smiled back at her and said, "Yes, I DO!" She giggled with delight and said, "I KNEW it was you!" Then she threw her arms around me and gave me a big hug. This little one had come to the house on a tour and had heard the story of Jesus. She blessed me with her joy. Please pray for all the children who came to my house this past December. Ask the Father to call to their remembrance the things that they heard about Jesus and His ability to meet their deepest needs.
In the Air
There are many stories that happen in the course of traveling during the year that I never have the opportunity to share with you. As I am writing these words to you tonight, I am remembering many of the people that we talked with over the past year. On the way home from somewhere, I had an opportunity to talk with a Buddhist monk and explain to him the Gospel. He told me that he was absolutely sure that there was no difference in what I believed and what he believed. You cannot imagine the shock on his face when he learned that his good deeds would never be enough to give him the promise of enlightenment (heaven) for which he hoped.
There were so many conversations with different people on the planes as we were traveling. I had an opportunity to talk with a businessman who was sure that his success in this life was all that he needed. I spoke with a young girl who was very angry to be traveling with her father because he had left their family. I’ve actually never seen a thirteen-year-old child so consumed with hatred. Her father was at a loss to deal with her behavior.
In each of these situations, I was able to explain how God could uniquely meet their needs. Please continue to pray for them, as none of these I’ve mentioned showed any interest in God solving their problems.
This story began over a year and a half ago as David and I was traveling home from Pennsylvania, where I’d been visiting my son and his family. You may remember that David is the young man from England who lived with my husband and I for many years and partnered with us in ministry. As many of you are aware, I have diabetes. On the drive, I ate an apple, and my blood sugar went very low. This simply cannot happen when you are diabetic. We immediately pulled off and stopped at a gas station.
As we had been driving, David and I talked about how God sovereignly ordains appointments. I was very aware of this conversation as I walked into the gas station to find a snack. Immediately I knew that God wanted me to speak to the young man behind the counter. His name was Justin. He was thirty-something, with pierced ears and tattoos. I told him that I believed that God had sent me there to tell him about hope. I told him that God cared for him. He blurted out, "I have no hope. My wife left me. She has all our children. She got the house. I am sleeping in the back of the gas station." My heart broke for him. I’m surrounded by so many people that love and care for me. But this young man felt he had noone.
For the next thirty minutes, nobody came in the store. I prayed with him. When we finished, I saw that he had tears in his eyes. I think it is too easy to see someone who looks different than we look and not have the compassion that we need to have for them and their pain. I kept this young man’s name and the address of the gas station. Across the next year, I prayed for him. In October, I was traveling north again, planning on seeing Niagara Falls. Another former puppeteer was with me. I told Will about Justin and he agreed that we needed to stop and visit with him.
Again I watched God pour His Spirit on the opportunity that He gave us. I was so excited when we drove up to see Justin standing inside the gas station. As I opened the door, he said, "Mrs. Summer, I thought that was you!" We had a wonderful visit, and before we left, Will prayed for him. Justin told me that I could send him something to read about God. As soon as Will and I got in the car, we decided to go find a Christian bookstore and not wait until we got home. I wish you could have seen Justin’s face as we gave him the Bible we’d selected. He got very excited and said, "Great! I can use this!" I have given away so many Bibles but noone has ever had this response! Please pray for Justin and his family. He now has custody of his children, and is helping his brother raise his children as a single father. I know God sent me to this young man. I beg you to pray for him.
During the fall, I told you that I spoke at many churches and helped others with outreach. I want to tell you about three of these churches.
One was in rural area of North Georgia. It was a small Baptist church, full of mostly older people who had Kingdom eyes. On the Wednesday night that we were there to do a puppet show, the church was packed full of children and teens, most of whom were not from that church. Noone complained about the mess the children made. Their focus was on loving those children and teenagers. I was reminded that God does great things when we remember that all things belong to Him.
The Saturday before Halloween, we were at a Baptist church in Tennessee. We drove for miles and hardly saw a house. I was shocked at the hundreds and hundreds of people who came to the church that evening for their Fall Festival. Most were visitors, and many were not attenders of any church. That evening, the people of the church gave them a sweet invitation – to hear the Gospel, and also to be welcomed into the family of the church. It was an honor to work with these friends.
In December, I traveled to Gainesville, Georgia, and was blessed by a group of very devoted and talented young people at a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) congregation. They had worked endless hours so that they could perform The Sound of Music. All of the proceeds from the evening’s show were to be given to The Agape Puppets. They sweetly asked me to share during the intermission about what God was doing in the lives of children around the world. Then they took up a love offering. So many of us spend our free time on ourselves, but these young people gave of themselves so that children that they will never meet this side of heaven could hear about Jesus Christ.
All of these friends challenged me to love Jesus more.
I was touched by the comment that one young man from India wrote in response to the email I sent out right before Christmas. Usually, a couple of times a year, I mention something about the need the puppet ministry has for financial support. This email had contained such a request for help. The young man wrote to apologize to me that he was not able to send money, though he was very excited about the work and what God is doing. He is one of our dear brothers and sisters in India who have so very little, but consistently give everything they have so that people can hear about the One True God. As I read his apology, I thought of all that God has blessed me with, and committed to spend my resources for the Kingdom. I hope that all of us will commit, in this new year, to use what God has given us to support MANY ministries so that all may know Him.
The Middle East
On Tuesday, January 10, we will leave for the Middle East. The team will consist of our French director, Anna McIlwaine, and Jared Bolstridge, a USA team member. This will be an amazing trip as we will share with children at our destination and with refugees from a nearby country that is closed to the Gospel. We need your prayers. Ask God to make us a bright light for the cross.