In last week's edition of Cedar Grove's church enewsletter, they asked us to send in a story about how someone's act of kindness made a real difference and impacted our life.
"There's still time to submit those!! We'd love to hear YOUR story!" they said.
One of the acts of kindness I’ve experienced that impacted my life incredibly occurred halfway around the world in 2003.
In 2003, I went to Germany to be an au pair for a wealthy German family in Dusseldorf for one year. I had met the family, loved the kids and would be paid well for my adventure.
After just one week, I realized my expectations were way off and that life was not going to be what was promised. However, I stuck it out for three weeks, wanting to get involved in the International Baptist Church of Dusseldorf, where I had befriended many expatriates from many nations. I had even begun attending a ladies’ Bible study. For many reasons, I decided to leave the home where I was “nannying” and had no place to go but back to Canada.
Then, an American couple from church, John and his wife, Michaelle (who was in the women’s Bible study), took me in to live with them in their lovely Dusseldorf apartment with their six-year-old daughter. They were so gracious, taught me so much about the Lord and faith, and shared what God had done in their lives in the short time I stayed with them. I had just been baptized before I left for Germany.
While I was living with them – and sleeping on their couch – they included me on their family vacation: a roadtrip to France (it sounded far, but the town of Bussang, where we were headed, was only 4 hours away). I helped them in France by translating a little and also by keeping their daughter occupied and amused. In Bussang, we stayed with their friends (one German gal who had married a Frenchman and now lived in this town with his family), who ran a home church, since Bussang was a very “dark” town, influenced by the Occultism. These people (there were about 12 of them) fellowshipped every night. The women would cook together and when the men came home from work, they would sit around the table and talk for hours! There was craft night, worship night (which consisted of crowding into a small room to watch Michael W. Smith’s worship DVD projected on the wall), evangelism (visiting landmarks in the town to speak to people), and Bible study. This group amazed me and showed me what the early church must have felt like. They were full to the brim with joy and peace, even in such a dark place.
It was through the German girl who lived there with her French husband that I learned about a place called Teen Ranch France, a ministry, based on a horse ranch, that trains teens in leadership and responsibility. They are all over the world. She put me in contact with her friend, who was the cook there, and once I got back to Germany, I said goodbye to John and Michaelle and their daughter, and made my way – alone by train – to Le Chambon sur Lignon, where I spent 2 ½ months learning how to ride and care for horses, cook for 100 people or more, enjoy the French culture, and celebrate the diversity of the kids I met there.
But most importantly, I learned to trust in God. He knew the curveballs this trip would throw my way from the beginning. He knew what it would take to get me over there, but that if He had revealed to me His WHOLE plan, I would have let fear hold me back. He knew where I’d end up. He also knew I’d value that experience incredibly, and cherish it for the rest of my life.
I still keep in touch with Teen Ranch and hope to go back some day with Wayne and maybe even my own kids. If John and Michaelle hadn’t prayerfully taken me into their home and given me the opportunities they did, if they hadn’t followed God’s promptings to open their home to me, I would have come home terribly disappointed, humiliated and broke. And I would not have experienced what Jesus meant when He said: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:35, 40).” I came home that December far richer in faith, thankfulness and guts (!) than I was when I left. And I think about this blessing all the time.