KOH2RVA: Day 232

EG2At the end of worship yesterday Lori Bianco slipped me a folded piece of paper with a KOH2RVA story written on it: an account of a moment when the Kingdom of Heaven came to Richmond, Virginia, and she was lucky enough to have a front row seat.

She wrote:

The family I nanny for was going through some old clothes to give to Goodwill, and I asked if I could have them for a little girl who lives in an apartment complex where a friend of mine lives. She always has a big smile on her face, even though I always see her in the same outfit, and all through the winter, only sandals on her feet.

I brought over a box and a bag full of little girl treasures. When I knocked on the door, the children could not open the door since they were babysitting for their little sister and their mom was sleeping. I told them I would come back in a little bit.

I went across the road to have tea with a family from Egypt, and saw her little face pressed against the window…waiting impatiently for me to come back.

When I went back I was immediately let into the apartment. I put down the box and bag, but they were hesitant to look at it all. So I started to pull out the different things. This adorable little girl smiled at everything I brought out. Then I pulled out a pair of Barbie sandals, and her eyes grew large, she sucked in her breath, and her face lit up with the biggest smile possible.

Her Egyptian mother, who spoke very little English, repeated “God bless you!” over and over.

This was by far the highlight of my week, and the blessing I received from them far outweighed the little that I did for them.

When we do things like this—simple acts of kindness and generosity—we often take people by surprise. They want to know why we would do such a thing. That gives us the perfect opportunity to say, “Because of Jesus. Because this is what I think Jesus would do.” If they know who Jesus is, it might cause them to think about him in a different way, not only as someone they’ve seen in pictures, hanging on a cross, but as someone who comes and gives smiles and hugs and Barbie sandals to little girls. And if they don’t know who he is and say, “Jesus who?” Well!

That’s the perfect opportunity to tell them.

KOH2RVA: Day 152

ChildrensBooksCollageA couple of weeks ago I bumped into Emma El-Khouri in the hallway at church. Emma is how old: Five? Six? Anyway, she’s an adorable first grader, and I squatted down to talk to her about the Bible I would be giving her during the Sunday morning service. This is something we do at First Baptist: we give first graders a Bible, and Emma was looking forward to getting hers. She assured me that she could already read.

“Well, then,” I said, “this is what I want you to do: take your new Bible home, read it, and then next Sunday you can come back and tell me how you liked it.” She nodded and smiled as if she had already planned to do that (and, honestly, she probably could; that girl is whip-smart).

“I have a whole shelf full of books at home,” she said.

And that made me think of something else.

I had read something just the day before about children who don’t have any books at home—not even one. Can you imagine how deprived you would be if you never got to enter the magical world of story through the pages of a book?  It’s a big part of the reason First Baptist is sponsoring a book drive. On Valentine’s Day we hope to present every child at Glen Lea Elementary School with a book of their own.

And so I asked Emma if she would like to help.

“There are some children in our city who don’t have any books,” I said. “Do you think you could go home and find one on your shelf that you could give away?” She nodded again. “And,” I added, “do you think you could pick one of your favorite books, one that somebody would really like and not just one you want to get rid of?” She nodded again, a little more slowly this time.

This was going to cost her something.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if Emma went home and did exactly that. I think lots of people did that, because last Wednesday night at church I was almost run over by two shopping carts full of books being pushed down the hall by some of our youth.

“Wow!” I said. “Are all those for the book drive?”

“Yes,” they said. “And this is just the first load!”

It seems like a little thing: to put a book in the hands of a child who has never owned one. But the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, Jesus said. It’s a small thing that grows and grows. Who knows how Emma’s small act of kindness may change a life, how the little girl who gets her beloved book may come to treasure words and language and the One in whose name the book was given, and grow up to be the poet laureate of Virginia, writing poems about mustard seeds that become trees where the birds of the air can build their nests?

Maybe this is exactly how the Kingdom comes.