By John Porter
By Dustin Damitz
Have you ever had an experience you go back to in your mind as a reminder of where you came from? Maybe it is a person that upholds strength and truth in your life and you can always count on them. For me, the answer to both of these questions is my parents. I’m not saying my family has had the roughest of pasts, but I know for a fact nothing has been handed to us. We have plenty of stories and I have plenty of experiences in life to draw from, but I want to focus on just one of those experiences in my family’s past today.
I was asked to write about a time in my past when my parents gave up everything to follow Christ. Let me preface this by saying, YES. Yes, I think my parents are the greatest people on this earth, so I apologize if I get a little gushy or passionate in this blog. 🙂 I also don’t want you to read this thinking I am looking for sympathy or that my parents are on some glorified status, because they aren’t. They just took a chance. A lot of the experiences we have been through have formed me into the person I am today and I would not change a thing. With that said, let’s go back to around 1988-1989 and I was around three-years-old. I have a horrible memory and a lot of my past is really lost in my mind, but an experience like this tends to stick with you. My parents were realizing life just wasn’t working. Living in Davenport, Iowa, three kids, dad was getting ready to lose his job, and a decision needed to be made. Make moves or make excuses. My parents never made excuses, they made moves…literally. They decided to give up what they thought was right and after a discussion with a friend, decided to sell everything, move and lead a mission in Indiana because they felt this is what God called them to do.
I don’t know about you, but I have a constant error in my brain when things go wrong in my life. I tend to try and work harder and lose focus on God…a lot and it is something I am constantly working on. But, here were my parents at an all-time low, deciding to do something crazy (although biblical) insane…right? Sell everything they own to move and help others in need. I was young enough to not really know how much trouble we were in, but I can only imagine how my two older brothers were thinking at this time. They probably thought my parents were nuts, but they were only doing what they felt they were called to do. So, here we were in a two bedroom apartment inside a five-story building in downtown Linton, Indiana. I take so much pride in my time there at The Mission. At three-years-old, I knew what was happening. Even at 29, I can still go back in my mind to those experiences. My family never asked for “wants” and we never went without “needs.” It was through these experiences I understood what it meant to see and feel the love of Christ. This was the Gospel…they gave up everything to help people they hadn’t met. I know of the cookouts at the park in order to form relationships with the homeless. Giving them a place to sleep and food in return, they would help clean and do various tasks in the building. The times dad would get up at 4AM every day, pray with the family, and go ask local business for continued support with food, clothing, and appliances. Not only were people wanting to help, they just needed the avenue. They wanted to help in abundance. There were countless times that families were given second chances and only through the love of Christ and reliance on him was this possible. Mom woke up early to make sure everyone was fed three times a day and constantly cleaning to maintain standards for the guests; never complaining but realizing Christ was changing lives and continually knowing they were following the call of Christ. Not only was this felt by my parents, but as I said earlier, this was an experience I go back to in my mind today. A foundation of who I am was built during this time at The Mission. I can remember the Saturday night sings. Before rounding everyone up for Sunday morning services at a local church, my parents would lead a worship service next to the kitchen in the open area, mom and dad both singing and dad playing guitar to songs like, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Old Rugged Cross”. Think about it…three years old hanging out with the homeless, people who have come straight from jail, liars, thieves, all singing worship and living the dream.
There is one story that sticks with me to this day. This is the time when I wanted a new bike for my birthday. It was an awesome bike and I would have dad go by the store when we could to see it. Because I know the full story now, I know dad didn’t have a dollar to his name, but you know what? Jesus got me that bike. At least that’s what I ran around saying when a wealthy friend of my dad who went to the same church, pulled it out of his truck one day and said, “Dustin, I want you to know that Jesus got you this bike.” It was because of the graciousness of others and the selflessness of my parents that I was able to know and see what true reliance on Jesus looked like. I know I was young, but I will be forever in debt to my parents for that experience. It was modeled to me, not just in this experience, but in my whole upbringing what it means to live a life devoted to Christ.
In all of our ups and downs and even to this day, the echoing of words I hear in my mind every time I go through a dark time is “Everything will work out.” If my mom said the sentence, “I love you,” to me most in life then, “Everything will work out” has to be second. It may seem like a simple sentence, but I know what is truly behind it….FAITH. My parents trusted Christ and what he had for their life. They jumped in head first for what he had for them and I wouldn’t change a thing. In that time and all of the hard times after that, we got through it. We had each other and The Mission would serve as the catalyst for the submission to Jesus. Let me be clear, as I get older, personally I am still trying to figure this out. Even though this was something I lived, I still have a very hard time applying this. Submitting and letting go to something you think is insane is extremely difficult, but I know I can get through anything today because Christ had my parents’ back then and I know he has mine now. Maybe you know what it means to submit to Christ and never see it as a negative. It is because my parents jumped, I know they experienced a true closeness to Christ that I hope to even comprehend, let alone experience one day.
To do something completely opposite to what the world tells you and leave everything you know to help people you haven’t met, is not exactly the definition of success in the world. So, I want to try something. I don’t know how it’s going to work, I don’t have all of the details yet, but in honor of the lives my parents changed in submission to Christ, I want to return the favor. I don’t have a building, but I know technology and I have an idea. I call it RISE and I need your help. I want to help people who I haven’t met yet. I envision the website as an area where people who need help can go and people like the man who was able to get me that bike for my birthday can go to give to those in need in the Des Moines area. I made a website and a Facebook, but I need your help in developing it. Do you know someone in need or would you like to be put on a list of people who can help others? If you have a need or want to help I want to post it to our site, www.risedsm.com. I would like to see this as an ever evolving Mission by helping people right where they are, just like my parents did. Not only that, but if you would like to get involved in helping people right now, I encourage you to contact John Porter at our church and ask to help. I see a lot of my past in John Porter and am thankful we have him at FFC. He is helping people right now, right where they are and could always use your help. I hope to develop RISE closely with John and consider this your invitation to do something crazy. Take a leap, join me and thanks for reading! Respond in comments or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help or have ideas!
“Will you still be The Shoebox Queen, Grandma?” As I approached retirement after twenty-one years as the administrative assistant in Federated’s Children’s Ministry, this was Chloe’s question. “The Shoebox Queen”… Wow, such a royal title could only be bestowed by a seven-year-old grandchild!
I never planned to be in charge of the shoebox project. It just kind of happened. About sixteen years ago, Pastor Charlie Farrell introduced Operation Christmas Child to our Sunday School classes. A contest between the classes generated a few shoeboxes…some with just one or two small gifts inside.
While there have been a number of changes in the Children’s Ministry staff over the years, the shoebox project has continued…AND GROWN each year. At first it was just a part of my job on staff to care for some of the details of the project, but soon I was hooked on Operation Christmas Child. I began wrapping shoeboxes, stalking the stores for sales, and spending winter evenings sewing tiny quilts to wrap around the dolls I would pack in my own shoeboxes. My husband Mike partnered in my passion for OCC by doing whatever was needed– helping to set up display tables, distributing empty wrapped boxes, bagging candy, collecting filled shoeboxes and more.
Why Operation Christmas Child when there are so many great ministries we could support? I could go on and on!
- This is a ministry that reaches children. God loves children. I love children and I know that their hearts are the most open to the good news of Jesus. And when children come to Jesus, families will follow.
- Shoeboxes go where I cannot. These gift-filled boxes go to needy children all over the world and open doors to the Gospel, even in countries where Christian missionaries might not be welcome.
- Anyone can do this project…singles, seniors, families, small groups. All it takes is small gift items like toys, school supplies, toiletries, clothing, hard candy and $7 to help with shipping. We’ll even provide the wrapped shoebox. Larry Jones and I have wrapped thousands of them over the years.
You can be a part of this amazing ministry by picking up a shoebox on Sunday, October 26, and then return it to church filled with goodies on Sunday, November 16. Want more information about Operation Christmas Child? Go to samaritanspurse.org or give me a call (515.277.9459). I would love to talk with you and help you get started on your own shoebox adventure. Just be careful. Packing shoeboxes can be addictive!
It’s time for the Lightner family to pick a fight. Let me explain.
When I was first taught “vertical” and “horizontal” as a kid, I remember that it was hard to keep the concepts straight. I’d always mix up the two. It took a lot of practice to remember which one was which. Honestly, even today if I’m given instructions to “fold a paper vertically”, I still have to take a second to think about it!
Concerning His Kingdom, God has been teaching me lately that I still don’t have the vertical/horizontal concept figured out yet.
We all evaluate our Christian lives and our relationship with God differently. How do you evaluate yours? By church attendance? By the cleanliness of your language on any given day? By how you controlled your temper? For me, evaluating my Christian life has always been in the form of spiritual disciplines: how consistent I am in reading my Bible, praying, giving, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong—all of these things ARE decent evaluating tools to measure how much our life has been transformed by God. All of these things SHOULD change as we are changed by the power of the gospel. But, there is one evaluating tool that I never used and God is teaching me that I NEED to use it more. It is His heartbeat and it is namely this:
How am I meeting the needs of others around me? How am I using the resources God has granted me to display God’s love?
I’m not sure why I never used this evaluating tool, because it is ALL OVER Scripture. I have always evaluated my walk with God by VERTICAL means (how I relate to God), but rarely HORIZONTAL (how I relate to others). And yet, God doesn’t separate the two. Here are a few examples that God has brought to my attention recently:
- ·When God gave the nation of Israel the Ten Commandments, the first four explain what God expected of them vertically, and the last six explained how to behave horizontally.
- ·When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He told them that loving others (horizontal) was equal with loving God (vertical).
- Jesus taught that before we take communion (vertical), if we have someone who has something against us, we are to go fix the problem first (horizontal).
- Jesus taught that if we don’t forgive others (horizontal), that God won’t forgive us (vertical).
- Jesus taught in 1 John 4 that if we don’t love people who we can see (horizontal), it is not even possible to love God who we cannot see (vertical).
Wow. The Holy Spirit has revealed to me lately that while I may feel good about my vertical relationship with Him, I am not as tight with God as I thought I was, because of my regular neglect of the horizontal. So something has to change in the Lightner house, because I don’t want my vertical relationship to suffer. I don’t want my wife and kids following my current example—someone who is building His own Kingdom to the neglect of showing the needy people of this world God’s Kingdom.
I recently posted on Facebook a quote that argued the point that social work without the gospel is incomplete. And I still do very much agree with that. But I had a friend from high school who commented on my status and said, “But what gets me is when people share the gospel without the social work.” And He is right. The horizontal and the vertical always go together in God’s Kingdom.
So the Lightner’s need to pick a fight. And by that I mean, something or someone to fight for—focusing on horizontal needs that I’ve neglected for so long. It is not yet clear to us exactly WHAT fight we need to pick, but I do know that if I don’t find someone to fight for, I’ll eventually be fighting for my own relationship with God. If I don’t pick something to fight for, then God’s gonna pick a fight with me.
I leave you with two quotes that have been extremely challenging to me, and have been used by the Holy Spirit to bring me to this point of wanting to pick a fight.
“Christians account for a staggering percentage of social good throughout the world. Yet as we approach a new world fraught with injustice, hunger, disease, poverty, and social and sexual exploitation—and as the world looks for the true face of God to believe in—I feel we can no longer view the viability of the church through the lens of a Sunday church service. That’s simply not the time we do our best work.” –Hugh Halter, Flesh
“Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty, children sold into slavery–the thought disgusted me, so I shook my fist at Heaven and said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did, I created you”. –Matthew West, Do Something