The first week of April blew through our life like a strong March wind. There was all the drama of our return flight to Pittsburgh from our trip to Orlando and the eventual recovery of our "lost luggage." And THEN there is the completely different opportunity to serve a brother and sister in the Lord with some HUGE needs just right now!
Back in November 2007 I received an email from my sister Helen. A friend of hers from high school was possibly facing major cancer surgery at a University of Pittsburgh hospital in the near future. Long story short, we invited him and his wife to bunk at our house during their stay in Pittsburgh - or at least for Sharon to stay here.
I didn't know Keith and Sharon's "story" until now. This same sister unexpectedly walked up to Keith at high school 30 or so years ago and "out of the blue" invited him to a Bible study. He said he would but he didn't come. The next week she asked him again. He said he would but he didn't come. A third week she invited him again. For the third time (reminiscent of Peter on the day Jesus was crucified) Helen invited Keith, he promised to come and she informed him that she "didn't believe him because he had already broken his word to her twice." A third time he didn't show!
A day or so later Helen walked right up to Keith as he was hanging out with some of his buds, stuck her finger in his face and said, "You lied to me!" Then she turned and walked away.
What got Keith to the Bible study eventually wasn't Helen's invitation (tho' the invitation was important as it started the chain of events), it was her exposing "the lie." Keith thought about that. He thought about the fact that his dad always taught him that integrity is precious, that integrity is a quality of character to protect at all cost, that integrity is very difficult to "get back" once it is lost.
That's what finally moved his feet down the path to a house on York Street in Chester, South Carolina, on a certain evening. Keith was so green at Bible study stuff that he didn't even bring a Bible. That evening Helen's (and my) mother taught the Bible study and then challenged Keith with the Gospel privately after. Keith listened with his heart! After all, God is really the reason Keith finally came!
God was chasing Keith! God wanted Keith's heart in His kingdom and for His kingdom! Keith met Jesus, and his life changed forever. Today Keith and Sharon are serving the Lord in middle Pennsylvania at Grace Fellowship Church. You can read about them at http://www.gracefellowshippgm.org/. Click on "News" in the menu on the home page and read Keith's "Jelly Belly Journal." It's the story of his latest adventure with God!
Keith had surgery for his "jelly belly" cancer April 1, 2008. My "wild week" meets up with Keith and Sharon the evening of April 1 and continues. Sharon is staying with us while Keith is in the hospital. We take her across Pittsburgh each morning and go get her each evening (except for the two nights she ended up staying with Keith after he got out of ICU).
What's so amazing about God's astonishing grace is that we have been blessed by Keith and Sharon FAR more than we have been able to serve them! They are incredible servants of Jesus Christ - new friends, new family!
Keith and Sharon know what restoration is all about up front and personal. Keith and Sharon have walked over some really rough ground in their faith journey. They even lost two daughters to a mysterious brain disease. Keith and Sharon have found God faithful and more than adequate to meet every need anytime and all the time!
Did extra time to chauffeur and love and serve this precious brother and sister make this week a bit wilder than usual? Absolutely, but I wouldn't take anything for both the privilege and the opportunity to be so hugely blessed by just hanging around with Sharon especially. Sharon has a restoration heart!
Last night she sat sharing about their deaf ministry at Grace Fellowship while her food grew cold. Her passion for those who cannot hear is compelling! Put that together with all the restoration work God has done in Keith's and Sharon's hearts and these two are a dynamic duo for God's kingdom! "Wild" might be better described as awesomely and amazingly blessed!
God builds His kingdom where and as He wills. He uses a high school girl with the boldness to step outside her comfort zone to dare to issue an invitation to a Bible study to an unlikely candidate. God gives that same girl the faith and guts to persist even in the face of ridicule and rejection. God uses a mother to gently explain the Gospel to a boy until he "gets it" and comes to know Jesus. God used that boy to then invite his own crowd to come with him to the Bible study. Today many of those who came know Jesus. That chain reaction started with the faith of one gutsy girl!
God uses deafness. God uses death. God uses cancer. God builds His kingdom with some very unlikely "bricks" but He is always working to build His kingdom through His restorning Gospel one heart at a time! And that's the real reason there is a Restoration Church beginning in the South Hills of Pittsburgh - God is building His kingdom using unlikely "bricks" but God is doing His work of restoration and it's a beautiful and awesome thing to watch and participate in! You can be part of that restoration story, too!