I suppose some people would question the importance in doing a show in a dirty field surrounded by houses in bad repair. Others might suggest that if we went to a different place, we could have more children and we wouldn’t have to worry about children trying to steal our equipment. Some might say that it just really doesn’t make a difference for eternity.
These people did not see the children we saw. They did not look into their eyes. They did not see them nod their heads when I said, “Perhaps bad things are happening in your house and you think no one knows.” I told them that God knows and God cares. They are precious to the Father, and it matters that they hear about God’s rescue plan!
We were dramatically reminded of how important these programs can be when we heard the news last Friday. In a place where we had just been in inner-city Philadelphia, three children died. A man stole an SUV and lost control of the vehicle. He plowed into a mother and three children, killing the children instantly. Keiearra (15-years-old), Thomas (10-years-old), and Terrence (7-years-old) walked into eternity. The man who was driving the SUV ran away.
Only days before, when we were doing the program in the field, so many adults as well as children joined us. I talked about forgiveness and how to treat our enemies. I told them that such forgiveness comes when Jesus rules our hearts. Pray for this place, and pray for their mother. Ask God to show this community mercy and call many to Himself.
We left West Virginia and spent two days driving to Rochester, Massachusetts. It was worth it! We were sharing at the First Congregationalist Church there, which supports the puppet ministry. We set up everything, just like we were doing a show, even though it was a Sunday morning service. We brought a mission report about the wonders we’d seen God do in the last year. We wanted them to see what the children see, to be swept away by the explosion of color! Drake even wore his knight in shining armor costume, as well as a Mexican poncho and sombrero. Billy shared wearing a Quechua Indian hat, and I wore a beautiful robe from Lebanon. Leslie was the only one who looked normal.
Something wonderful happened as God poured His Spirit on the words we spoke. People’s hearts were touched by the stories of the children and how they suffer. They rejoiced with us as we shared how so many children had responded to God’s rescue plan for them. I knew that God was doing something wonderful, but I was very surprised by what happened when we finished. I’ve only seen this thing happen twice on a Sunday morning in 25 years of ministry. The first time was when I spoke at a church in Missouri, only weeks after my husband’s death. I spoke about the hope I had in Jesus and the deep peace that He had given me. I told them about Mike’s love for Jesus, and how he had died in that fiery car crash because there was no one to pull him free. I told everyone that I knew he was not alone, that Jesus held onto his hand. When I finished, the entire church stood up and clapped. I was overwhelmed. I called my sons and their wives and told them that their father had just gotten a standing ovation. It was the testimony of Mike’s life that caused them to stand.
Sunday morning in Massachusetts, I saw this happen again. When we all finished speaking, the entire church stood. They were clapping very loudly. I extended my hand and pointed to heaven. I knew that all of this applause was not for us, but for Jesus and His sweet rescue plan. Still, it was a very encouraging way to end the summer.
We stood at the doors to greet people as they left. Many grown men left the service with tears in their eyes. They had a time of fellowship after the service with coffee and pastries and this gave us a chance to visit with our friends and share more stories. Across the two days we spent there, so many friends showed us great hospitality. They had two big dinners for us, and the young people enjoyed paddle boarding on Mary’s Pond. I had seafood and enjoyed my friend’s boat. It was a very refreshing time, and we are so grateful to God for the blessing of these friends!
Linda for Billy, Drake, and Leslie