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!