Merry Christmas!!!...a little late. I've been a little out of touch with my internet friends and really have lots of excuses but none of them are coming to mind at the moment. Perhaps if I sit a little longer in my bathrobe - like I've done every morning until about 10:00 a.m., I'll remember one.
I hope you had a fabulous Christmas and are looking forward to a new year as much as I am. I honestly can't believe the calendar is about to turn over once again and each year seems like it goes faster and is more full than the one before.
For me at least, this is the day of resolutions. Along with the fun Christmas cheer, and parties, and lots of refined sugar, we've had several circumstances in our neighborhood this season that have reaffirmed our call to West Dallas.
Last December, a sweet fourteen year old kid named Wilber lost his mom. She was murdered in front of her three year old nephew by an abusive boyfriend. We've known Wilber for a long time and he has a mentor through Mercy Street - a dear man named Alan. Last fall, Wilber and his mentor spent long hours together working on homework. Wilber would call Alan, asking him for help but Alan couldn't figure out why it was always late at night. Sometimes, as the clock would tick toward midnight, Alan, dog-tired from his day at work would ask, "Wilber, buddy, why are you waiting until long past dinner-time to start your assignments?"
Wilber never had a very good explaination.
But, last December, it all became clear. As a momma was buried and a boyfriend sat in jail, Wilber revealed to Alan just how abusive the boyfriend was and that, as long as Alan was there in the house, Wilber and his mom were safe from his tirades.
One Wednesday night, as I was baking another round of sugar cookies, preparing for class parties and all the upcoming festivities of Christmas, Wilber and Alan knocked on our door. As we were looking forward to a long, restful vacation, Wilber would spend the next several days testifying at the trial of his momma's murderer. He and Alan came by asking questions like how do we ensure he wouldn't be counted truant and does using epoxy violate the rules for the Physics semester model they were assembling. And would we pray for them.
Y'all, Alan doesn't have to do all this. I'm pretty sure when he signed up to be a mentor at Mercy Street, this wasn't what he envisioned. But, he's faithfully walked alongside a kid who God handpicked for him. Alan has become somewhat of a father to Wilber. A voice of wisdom, a faithful friend, and an example of Christ. With all the chaos that has consumed Wilber's life, Alan has been a source of stability and strength.
There's a little passage in Luke 10 where Jesus is asked by an expert of the law - what is the greatest command of Scripture.
"Easy," Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
Wanting to justify himself, the expert asks Jesus to define "neighbor" and, since it would be centuries before Webster would publish his dictionary, Jesus defines the word with a story instead. There was this man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Two walked past without breaking stride but one man, a social enemy of the victim, stopped and did everything he could to help.
Geographically, culturally, they were everything but neighbors but the heart of the Samaritan made them neighbors.
Alan has done the same. He and Wilber were everything but neighbors. In fact, Alan probably could have walked next door and helped with chores and had a much easier time. But he's been committed to a kid on the other side of the river who needs him.
So, as we look at starting another year, our family is asking again, who's our neighbor? If you're considering where the Lord might use you this next year, give us a call. We'd love to hear from you.