Being Thankful

“…So what’s the verse of the day anyway…?”

Larry’s stare was caught in the glare of the cell phone as he searched for the answer to Kim’s question.

… The verse of the day.  A cell phone program we subscribed to which featured a different scripture verse every morning, sending the verse to Larry’s cell phone with links to the Bible passage.

…It’s a good thing we get these.

We only did our quiet times off of the cell phone when we got desperate… But then of course we had been desperate a lot lately. How many times over the past few days had we appealed to the “Verse of the Day” program when we couldn’t think straight to pray otherwise?

Sitting in the sweltering heat of a kitchen with no refrigerator, no stove, and no working air conditioning, we were trying hard to figure out what to do next. We had been home for about a day from our most recent U.S. trip, on which we had gotten caught longer than we’d expected, but finally managed to make it back.  We were worn out from fundraising and from searching until three-thirty in the morning for the cheapest hotel on the way home.

Photo of space in the kitchen where the fridge belongs.
“Where’s the fridge, mommy?”

To make things even worse during the time we were gone, somebody had picked up on the scent of an empty house and our kitchen had been broken into, ransacked, and left without a fridge or stove.  Our two-year-old daughter Karina was running around in the place where the fridge had been — hot, cranky and hungry.  Unfortunately, we had little inspiration for what her next meal would be.

In addition to the lack of kitchen appliances, the washing machine outside, with several helicopter-like “landing” noises on the spin cycle, warned that it was on its last leg.  Still not in great shape around her middle from the baby she lost a few months before, Kim cringed at the thought of washing more clothes by hand.

…So it was time for the verse of the day.

Yes, she thought.  It was just what we needed.  In fact it was almost uncanny how the verse always seemed to be something right on for the moment which related to what we were experiencing on a given day.

Kim closed her eyes waiting for God to “speak” through the verse as it appeared on Larry’s cell phone screen… Certainly today’s verse would have to be a good one.  Yeah, like one of those “sad” verses from Jeremiah.  Something about how the streets of Jerusalem were… ransacked.  Yeah.

Karina - worn out and frustrated
”                                   Colossians?”

Then came the verse.  Larry began reading in a sing-songy voice. “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.   Colossians…


…The rest of the information about the verse address faded away.

“…Are you sure you have the right day….?”  Kim asked, a little impatient.  Poor Larry… he really did seem to get confused on this new phone.  But she couldn’t overlook the fact that she really needed to have exactly the right verse for the day.   Especially today.

Larry obediently checked the verse. “No… this is the right day,” he chuckled, shrugging a bit apologetically.

Kim stumbled through the rest of the day and the next day in the heat, still thinking about the verse but not understanding.  “…Overflowing with thankfulness…”  It echoed again in her mind.

“Do you want to hear the verse of the day this morning?”  Larry asked the following day.

“No…” her response came a little too quickly.  “I’m still on yesterday’s verse.”

Then the third day came.  Attacks of heat exhaustion and nausea at night had caused us to give more priority to working on our swamp cooler than to figuring out kitchen appliances. Even so, we had managed to find a used fridge, but not a stove we were comfortable with for the money.

As Kim stared at the empty fridge, she felt the irony of the fact that nothing had been cooked to put in it. Then the reality of the situation hit her.

What are we doing here…?!  Certainly we weren’t managing to help anyone else… What are we doing..?

…As if in the distance, she heard the phone ring.

Kim was trying to think cool thoughts in the midst of a sudden surge of sweat.  As she called on her most creative thoughts for what still another meal might be, she couldn’t help but hear a cheerful tone from Larry’s end of the call as he was talking.

What the heck is he so happy about…?!

“…It’s Chuy!” Larry mouthed, wandering into the kitchen.

O.K., that was nice…. But which one…?  Unfortunately we knew about a million guys by that name.

“From Monterrey!” he whispered.

Chuy showing off his tattoos.

Kim’s mind did a quick search.  Oh… Chuy!

As it turned out this Chuy had originally been from our neighborhood. He was not a guy that we had even known for very long when he was with us, but he had sort of been part of our gang.  As Kim recalled he had become a Christian at some point.  She thought she’d heard he’d moved to Monterrey where he had wound up marrying a girl he’d actually met through our church.

… But why would a former gang member who had since moved away be calling us?

“He wants to help us buy a stove!” Larry was kind of jumping up and down as he covered the mouthpiece with his hand.

“What!?”  Really…?!  Now that surprise was almost as dramatic as the verse of the day had been!  And as the conversation continued, Larry learned that Chuy had moved to Monterrey, settled down, and started a pizza business — which was going well.  Somewhere along the road this young man had become more firm in his faith.  When he had gotten word of our situation he wanted to help…  (!)


…Minutes later another message came from one of our supporters.  Graciously she offered to help with whatever was needed.

“The stove is covered!” Kim messaged her, chuckling.  “But you can be the first to contribute to our new washing machine!”

…Then it came to her.  If God didn’t challenge us to trust Him even in the hardest moments, then trust would not be trust, and we would never grow.   To be sure, He does set the bar high for us to trust Him.  But that is because He knows what to do with our trust.  And if we don’t stretch out our hand to grope for His even in the dark places, we make it impossible for Him to lead us to the blessing.

Chuy and his wife Alejandra with Kim
Chuy, at a youth campaign a few years ago, pictured with Kim and Alejandra, the girl he eventually married.

…So with regards to the question of “What” exactly we are doing…?







We have to say that on some days the answer to that is more obvious than on others. …But what we do know is that we’re being lead on this journey one step at a time.

And that we’re here not only to bless people, but also sometimes to be blessed…  We are here not only to teach… But to learn.

So, just like it says in… Was it the book of Colossians?

…Be thankful.

Colossians 2:6-7Be thankful for the little things. …Like that you have a “new” fridge — which doesn’t shock you, and a new (yes new !) stove with four whole burners that work!

Be thankful that you had the opportunity to experience for a few days the way that some people live always…  And that most of those people don’t even steal from you.

Most of all, be thankful that Chuy, who used to be a gang leader — violent and on hard drugs – has turned his life around, and that God is using him to bless you.

…And of course, be thankful that you have a whole van full of still more gang members on Sundays who, when you don’t know quite what else to teach them, are now totally into reading the verse of the day off of your cell phone.

A few of the gang members with Larry at the river one Sunday afternoon.

…Colossians.  What a wonderful verse.

Note:  We have all but stopped preparing lessons to give to the gang members on their Sunday afternoon trips to the river, since they have liked the “verse of the day” so much, and since it has tended to be so fitting.  🙂  The guys all make a big deal out of making sure everyone else “shuts up” before reading the verse, and some even fight over the cell phone so that some of them can read it themselves.  …And again, most agree that the “verse of the day” is pretty appropriate for the moment a lot of the time.

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