I was going to write a blog about my Dad, Rene Gonzalez, and his influence on my life but my heart felt led to write about our recent experiences serving "Donuts with Friends". I will follow up with the blog about my Dad in a few weeks.
This past Saturday our family spent the morning giving out hot coffee, fresh donuts, brand new socks and hygiene bags to the homeless in Fort Collins. We call these times interacting with the homeless, "Donuts with Friends". Before you begin to think how wonderful we are to spend our Saturday mornings reaching out to people in need, let me honestly tell you that when I woke up on Saturday morning I did not feel like giving out coffee and donuts, socks and hygiene bags to homeless people in Fort Collins. I wanted to wrap my covers around me and go back to sleep for a few more hours. I wanted to have a hot breakfast of eggs and toast while still in my bathrobe. I wanted to stay home and have a leisurely, relaxing morning but instead of wrapping the covers around me I dragged myself out of bed. Instead of lounging around in my PJ's and bathrobe, I quickly dressed in my jeans and sweatshirt. Instead of a nice hot breakfast of eggs and toast, I grabbed a quick bowl of cold cereal and headed out the door with my family on our way to Fort Collins. There is no other way to describe my mood, as I headed out the door last Saturday morning, other than to say that I was grumpy!!!
Giving out coffee, donuts, socks and hygiene bags to strangers in a city is not one of my favorite things to do because it causes me to ignore the natural leadings of my personality. To put it bluntly...I don't like interacting with strangers. When Ed and I lived in New Hampshire we were the Senior High Youth Group Leaders for the teens at Trinity Bible Church in Sutton. Every summer we would take the teens on a Work Camp to serve people in need. I loved the time that we spent with our teens but every summer I would dread meeting other people at the Work Camps....they were strangers and every summer I would dread the thought of having to meet strangers.
My grumpy mood, about having to head out to meet homeless strangers, did not improve even after we picked up the coffee and donuts. I wanted to be home and I did not want to interact with strangers. We parked our car and honestly I thought that maybe I could just waited in the car and let my family walk the streets of Fort Collins looking for homeless people in need. Of course this was not going to happen and so my thought was that I better just dive right into "Donuts with Friends" and start serving coffee to those in need. I grabbed the bag with sugars, creamers, stir sticks, cups, napkins and also grabbed the box of hot coffee. I headed down the main street of Fort Collins and walked about 500 yards and saw our first homeless person. She was a woman who appeared to be in her late 20's and she had a cardboard sign that said "hungry". I walked up to her and asked her if she would like a cup of hot coffee. She said yes. As I poured out that first cup of hot coffee to this young woman, my grumpy mood immediately turned to joy. My apprehension and fear about interacting with strangers was replaced with boldness and my desire to wait in the car was replaced with a desire to reach out to people in need.
People in need are easy to find when you are looking for them and after serving about a dozen people we realized that we were quickly came to the end of our coffee supply. We had about 6 more cups of coffee left in the box and decided to head to another area of downtown. We traveled about 6 blocks in our car and parked on the street near a large parking lot. We saw a run down van parked on the side of the road which obviously was home to several people. We also spotted a lone man sitting on a rock across the other side of the parking lot. My daughter Meredith and I first thought to give our remaining supplies of coffee and donuts to the people living in the van but then we both wanted to reach out to the lone man sitting on a rock by himself. We both agreed that we should offer him a cup of coffee, a donut, a clean pair of socks and a hygiene bag. Walking across that parking lot was a very long walk. We could not see the mans face as we headed across the parking lot because he was sitting on the rock with his back towards us. As we walked, I wondered what we were getting into. Was this really a good idea? Maybe we should turn around and call it a day, but we kept walking. As we approached the man we said "Good Morning" and he looked at us but he didn't say anything. We asked him if he would like a cup of coffee and he continued to look at us but we still didn't get any verbal response. We set the container of coffee down on the rock next to him and offered him a donut from the box of donuts. He tried to speak but could not and we quickly realized that this man had no voice. He pointed to one of the donuts and when I showed him the coffee he nodded his head to respond yes. He was so grateful but had no verbal way to communicate that to us other than to look into our eyes and nod his head in appreciation.
My daughter, Meredith, and I were so touched and humbled by our interactions with this lone man sitting on a rock in a parking lot. We were so glad that we did not let our apprehension stop us from walking across the parking lot to interact with this stranger. He was a man in need. He was a hurting, lonely man and we were blessed to serve him a cup of coffee, a donut and to leave him with a clean pair of socks and a hygiene bag.
We ended our day by giving the remaining donuts and coffee to the people living in the van. As we walked away we heard one man say to his friend, " I was just wishing that I had a fresh donut to eat". Our hands were empty as headed towards our car but our hearts were full. I was so thankful that I didn't listen to my feelings of wanting to stay home or wanting to wait in the car. I was so grateful that I instead listened to God and was obedient to what He has called us to do. I wish that I did not an apprehensive personality and I wish that I wouldn't like to be a home body so much and I wish that I could say that I loved to meet strangers but all my wishing is not going to change who I am. Jesus does not call me to change my personality, He only calls me to be obedient to him. As I step out in obedience and in faith, no matter how I am feeling, God blesses me with joy in doing His work and He also gives me the boldness that is needed to reach out to strangers in need. Jesus expects that we will not let the weaknesses of our bodies or personalities be an excuse for not doing His work. God will be our strength and He will gives us just what we need when we step out in obedience. God's provision of what we need is contingent upon us being actively involved in the "doing". If I had chosen to stay in bed or wait in the car hoping to feel joyful or bold about serving homeless strangers, I would have waited for eternity! The joy and boldness in serving did not come until I was actively obedient to what God wanted me to do. It is in being obedient to God that we are blessed and we are given just what we need to accomplish what He wants us to do.
As I end this blog I can't help but think of my Dad. He was always encouraging me and my sisters to be brave and we always remember him saying, "Don't be afraid". It was his way of telling us to be bold, to trust God, to be risk takers and to give it our all. I look forward to sharing more about him in my next blog. Until then I will continue on being obedient to God, no matter how I am feeling and I will look to Him to be my strength and my joy in all that I do.
Soaring Wings Ministries
The other day I had the luxury of speaking to one of my good friends from my college days at Barrington College in Barrington, Rhode Island. As with most good friends, you can go a long time without speaking to them and then pick up right where you left off. This is how it is with my friend, Ruth. She now lives in Canada and many, many miles separate us but we still connect on the phone as if no time nor distance has come between us since our days at Barrington College.
One of the things that Ruth and I have in common is that her parents were missionaries in India and my mother was a missionary in Chile. Both of our parents have had a profound influence on our lives and we both continue to draw strength from them even though both sets of parents have gone on to be with the Lord in heaven. They were examples to us of how to live a Christian life. They also showed us how to carry on during tough times. They showed us that living a Christian life was not always about having an easy life. They showed us that giving your life to Jesus required sacrifice and commitment. The main thing they showed us is that living a Christian life and giving your all to God was worth it!!!! They were joyful in their work and would not have traded it for anything!
My mother, Bessie Pate, was the oldest of six children growing up in Smithville, Texas. When she was about 17 years old she quit high school, left home and went to train to be a missionary in Mexico. She began this unusual journey for a young, single woman because she felt God's call to be a missionary and she answered "yes". She completed her training in Mexico and she was hoping to be assigned as a missionary in Mexico but the missionary board said that she was being sent to Chile instead. They needed her to be a church planter in Chile. As a young single woman in her early twenties she left North American and traveled by boat with another single missionary woman to begin their missionary work in Chile. On their way to Chile their boat was docked in Panama and my mother and her friend got off the boat to go do some exploring. While the boat was docked it caught fire and everything that my Mother and her friend had was gone. Nothing was left. The only thing they had were the clothes they were wearing. They were able to get some more clothes and secured plane tickets to fly the rest of the way to Chile. My mother and her friend were successful in their work as church planters in Chile and some of the churches now existing in Chile are the result of my mother and her friend being faithful to what God called them to do.
I often think about my Mother. She was definitely a mold breaker. A single young woman during the 1940's does not quit school to become a missionary. A single young woman in the 1940's does not travel by boat with another single woman to a foreign country. A single young woman in the 1940's does not get on a plane after loosing everything and continue on her journey. A single young woman in the 1940's does not tackle the job of establishing churches in South American. My mother has inspired me all through my life and she continues to inspire me. I am 100 percent committed to what God has called us to do here in Colorado. I know that Ed and I both broke the mold when it comes to what couples typically do when they retire. Couples in their 60's are suppose to relax, travel, walk the beach or go golfing. I know that we broke the mold when we left our lives on the east coast and moved out west to Colorado. I know that we broke the mold when we began the task of starting up a ministry for the homeless when we are in our 60's. I am hear to tell you that God may call you to be a mold breaker. When God calls you to do something it may go against the grain of what the world typically says is acceptable. I am also going to tell you do it anyways. It is an exciting journey. It is not even one tiny bit boring and there is no better place to be than exactly where God wants you.
So BE BOLD!!!!! Be a mold breaker!!!!!! Say "yes" to what God is asking you to do. You won't be disappointed and God will go with you on the journey. It won't always be easy but you will begin the story that will be passed down for generations to follow as they look for examples of what it means to live a Christian life.
His servant in Colorado,
One of the many good things about living here in Colorado is that I get to spend quite a bit of time with our granddaughter, Payton. Payton is 2 and 1/2 years old and she, along with my oldest granddaughter, April, are two of the greatest delights and joys in my life. For those of you that have met Payton, you know that she is talkative and expressive way beyond her 2 and 1/2 years. This gift that she has of verbal expression will so often amaze us and bring us pure joy and laughter.
Payton and her parents (our daughter Meredith and son-in-law Todd) live with us here at Soaring Wings Ministries and so we are blessed to have the opportunity to eat most of our meals together with Payton. Payton will most times sit in her booster seat across from me at our dining room table. On a special occasions she will sit next to me in a big person chair. Most of you with young children know that eating with a toddler means that at just about every meal something will spill or something won't make it from the plate to the mouth or something will dribble down the front of a shirt or dress. I recently had the joy of sharing half a grapefruit with Payton. A fresh grapefruit, cut in half, with a little bit of sugar sprinkled on it is one of my favorite things to eat and I was delighted to offer some of my grapefruit to Payton as this was her first time experiencing a grapefruit. The very special occasion of experiencing a grapefruit for the first time required her to sit next to me in the big person chair. I didn't know how she would react to her first bite of grapefruit as it can sometimes be rather tart. I scooped a section out of my half of grapefruit and gave her her very first bite of grapefruit. She loved it and she wanted more! Being 2 and 1/2 years old Payton was not content to have me feed her grapefruit. She wanted to be the one to scoop out the grapefruit sections to feed herself and to feed her Meme. I gave her my spoon and my plate with the half grapefruit on it and with that passing of the plate began the hour long event of eating grapefruit with my granddaughter. The eating of the grapefruit was an absolute mess but it was one of the most delightful hours that I can remember having. We laughed, we giggled, we delighted in each delicious bite of tartness and sweetness and we delighted in spending time with each other. Most bites of grapefruit made it into our mouths but most bites dribbled down our shirts, dribbled down our mouths, fell on the dining room table or fell on the floor. Payton, being very smart and very verbal, put this grapefruit eating experience into words and into a sort of sing song. With every bite she would say, "Sometimes it is juicy, sometimes it is drippy and sometimes it is just right".
Aaaah, the wisdom and simplicity of youth! It delights me, encourages me and never fails to amaze me. Payton's little song she thought up while eating her very first grapefruit brought me joy and laughter even though she must have said it at least 30 times when we were sharing that grapefruit. The entire experience was pure delight!!! I love the word "delight". It expresses joy, refreshment, pleasure, and contentment.
I am 100 percent sure that the word "delight" is not a word that the homeless use or a word that they have experienced. Homeless young adults and families have not had very many positive experiences. We hope to turn this around .
When we began the process of developing Soaring Wings Ministries we could have taken another direction to help the homeless. Instead of the homeless families or young adults living with us here at 499 Trinity lane, we could have taken the direction to provide them with their own small house or apartment away from where we are living but we knew that sharing life with them on a daily basis was important. We want to share life with them on a daily basis so that they can experience encouragement and hopefully learn to experience the word "delight". Our hope and our prayer is that we can do this very soon. We are making plans to put up an addition which will be a home for a homeless family or young adults here at 499 Trinity Lane. We are getting blueprints developed and continue to raise funds for this project. We wish that we could fast forward this building project and get it done right away and yet at the same time we are so very grateful for the progress that has taken place over the past year. The property was a mess when we first saw it and and we have been working hard to breathe life and love into this place. Our work has been hard. Sometimes we have delighted in our work and sometimes we would grit our teeth and just get the work done. The fruit of our hard work will be the day when a homeless family or broken young adult moves into the property here at Trinity Lane. That will be a delightful day for us and we will then begin the process of infusing the word "delight" into lives of a homeless family or young adult.
Soaring Wings Ministries
499 Trinity Lane
Wellington, CO 8-549
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries