Between August of 1978 and August of 1980 I served as a minister in Mississippi. Spending two years in one of the poorest states in the Country after spending two years in California was quite an experience.
During my time in Mississippi I learned to respect and love the simple lifestyle of the poor. I learned that one does not need a lot of money or things to have a deep personal relationship with God. In fact, I learned that the people who loved God the most are many times those who have the least.
As difficult as those two years were for me, the lessons I learned have stuck with me for more than 30 years. To this day, my heart is drawn to those who the world considers “losers” and especially to those who must deal with personal tragedies or calamities.
My dad passed away in 1998 and by 2001 I was more or less my 82 year old mom’s caregiver, even though I lived 6 hours away. Gradually I became her official caregiver and was so until she died in April of 2006. My heart ached for her state, not just because she was my mom, but because she spent nearly every waking moment held captive by the relentless pain that buffeted her body. I am deeply moved by anyone in pain, whether physical, mental or spiritual.
When Hurricane Katrina tore into Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005 every part of me wanted to immediately drive down there and help. I knew how devastating that storm would be to the poor people who get no publicity and who live off the beaten path. As much as I wanted to go, I could not leave my mom due to her needs. All I could was pray and that is what I did.
My mom was not a generous person. The fear of running out of money in her old age drove her to be frugal and miserly. She would give a small offering at church once in awhile, but the farthest thing from her mind was the idea of giving any of HER money to some poor person. She grew up dirt poor and no one ever gave her a penny, so in her mind there was no reason to ever give to someone else who was in need.
In the final days before her death, my mom came to realize how wrong it was to have hoarded all her money awaiting a day that never came. Near the end of my mom’s life, she made me promise that I would use some of that money to go help those poor people in Mississippi I always talked about. I gladly agreed to honor her wishes.
For the next year I went to more places, met more people and did more interesting things than I had done the previous 20 years combined. In many respects, I believe that God gave me that year as a personal reward for the many years of taking care of my mom.
I have always felt I needed to share some of what I saw and learned in the year God allowed me to live in service to others. As time allows, I am going to break my silence and actually talk about what it means to literally walk with God with no safety net, no network of prayer partners and by faith and not sight.