I can still remember the winter day we closed on our house in Eastern Montana.
It was bitter cold, the sky was ugly gray and I swear vultures from the badlands up the road circled overhead.
When we had house hunted the month before, this place was the one I told my husband I absolutely hated and would not be considering. It was old, smelly, half the size of the home we were coming from, and the location was what many would politely label as undesirable.
We were on the ‘south side’ with no sidewalks or sunshine.
I cried at the closing.
I ached to go back to my two-story brick home with the french doors and master suite near a beautiful park and walking path back in Nebraska. For months, I felt claustrophobic due to the downsize, and depressed due to my surroundings. We battled mold, pet odor, and in general, old house.
I was certain God had forsaken me. Surely, I concluded, this was a punishment.
It never crossed my mind that God had put me on that corner quite intentionally and would use that house – that location – to humble and change me so that I could be used right there, right where I was, by the One who put me there.
By the time we moved out nearly five years later, that house had become sacred ground to me.
Almost immediately my home would serve as a magnet for the neighborhood children, particularly the boys. With my four kids, two dogs, a basketball hoop, trampoline and big yard, our house beckoned to them to ‘come.’
For a long time, I resisted. In any other city this neighborhood may have been labeled as “rough,” given the demographic. Nearly all the kids we met were living without a father in the home, many were impoverished, and many unsupervised much of the time for different reasons, including a mother working for their survival. Their behaviors could be quite challenging.
We kicked them out often.
But as time passed, things changed. I changed. God had used a precision hand to chisel away at so many flaws, particularly pride, materialism and a judgmental attitude.
I began to see these kids and their families through the eyes of the Father, their Father, who was bringing their hurts and needs right to my doorstep.
My house became the place to go if you needed a snack, drink, bathroom break, or a band-aid. It was a place where you could get a hug, high-five and a smile. It also was a place where you wouldn’t be allowed to cuss, fight, disrespect your parents or break any laws, and if you happened to come at meal time, it was a place where you could sit down and say grace.
I was often surprised but thrilled by the requests for hugs. I was wrecked by the little boy who asked if he could call me mom. I was stunned by the one who came at 6 a.m. to wait on a ride to school and asked if I’d make him an omelette.
To be sure, I was and am no saint. There were many days I’d say, ‘Sorry, we can’t play today.’
But I know God used our family to bring light to the darkness so many times.
Some of my favorite memories are of playing driveway basketball with the neighborhood kids. And handing out brownies or rice krispie treats just for fun. Or watching the boys laugh and play catch.
But the real treasure came from all the times I got to share the love of Christ, the gospel of Christ and even pray for salvation with ‘my’ boys.
These kids weren’t drawn to me, they were drawn to the Lord.
They hungered for Him, asking for rides to church or AWANA, asking if they could be the one to say grace at lunch.
Yeah, God knew what He was doing when He put us on that corner.
Not only did we have the privilege to be His hands and feet for those kids, but we also were blessed with dear, treasured friendships that we never would have known had it not been for that placement. There was the boy next door who came alongside my son, the Godly couple across the street who came alongside us as mentors and the sweet young couple who became some of the best friends we’d had.
Right up until the day we left, God used that location, that home, that neighborhood to change us, bless us and bless others.
I’ve always wanted to be a missionary. I’ve always dreamed of going overseas and ministering to mothers and children who are hungry and hurting. And I’m ready to go when He says go.
But what I learned on that corner in Eastern Montana is you don’t have to go anywhere to serve God and His people. You can do it right where you’re at, right in your back yard.
John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Mark 10:14 “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them ‘ Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'”