Stories of everyday people loving God & neighbor in extraordinary ways
ALL of us have a calling: to follow Jesus by loving God and loving neighbor. And ALL of us live out that calling wherever we go—in our workplaces, our homes, our neighborhoods—and among everyone we meet, including our co-workers, our families, and the members of our communities.
In the following essays, people from the BIC Church share stories of living out their everyday callings in extraordinary ways. Their reflections remind us that in ALL we say and do, we have the opportunity to reveal Christ’s limitless love and grace to those around us. At our jobs, among our families, and in our neighborhoods, we ALL live out our calling—to the glory of God.
My mother put me in piano lessons when I was five years old. And though I learned sonatas and waltzes, Beethoven and Mozart, I was learning to play piano to serve the Lord. My mother has always been involved in every facet of church life, and so she thought it would be a good plan to have a piano-playing kid. “Churches always need a piano player,” she would say. From an early age, I understood that the purpose of being a pianist was to serve the Lord.
One day, years later, I decided to go to law school and become an attorney. And though I was learning Constitutional law and legal procedure, due process and civil rights, I was learning it all to serve the Lord.
My decision to practice immigration law was simple. I was born and raised in the U.S. while living in Hispanic culture. Everyone around me seemed to be from somewhere else. My church had people from all over Latin America. The immigrant and the immigrant experience were as common as anything else at church. Being an immigration attorney was an obvious fit.
Today I serve people from our BIC church family who need guidance and help with their immigration matters. I represent undocumented men, women, children, and families. Everyone’s situation is unique, yet every story has the same plot and every person the same plea. The pain and fear and desperation of so many people weigh on me. I pray, “God, please give me grace. Give me wisdom. Give me favor to be of help.”
One of the many times I have prayed this prayer has been in the case of David*, a 22-year-old young man detained in immigration custody for being in the U.S. without documentation. He’s been there since October 2013. We prayed every time we met. We prayed every time we went before the judge.
I filed paperwork. I prepared for trial. Together, we went before the judge knowing we would not have a successful outcome. We prayed after we lost our case. I was overwhelmed with sadness thinking of all that losing his case meant for David’s present and future.
He’ll be sent back to his country in a couple of weeks. He’ll be returning to a country he doesn’t want to return to, and leaving a country he doesn’t want to leave.
But before he leaves, we will pray.
David didn’t get the outcome he so desperately wanted, but Jesus showed up and met with him every time we prayed.
Sometimes practicing law is like practicing the piano: It’s hard, and I don’t always want to do it. But I do it because the Church always needs people to help the “least of these.” I am an attorney so that I can serve the Lord.
Rachel Diaz serves as an attorney with the immigration program of Mennonite Central Committee East Coast in South Florida. Along with her husband and two daughters, she attends La Roca Firma BIC (Hialeah, Fla.).
* For reasons of confidentiality, this individual’s name has been changed.
Last week I received a call from our foster care agency: There’s another child in need of care. He’s two years old and mom was arrested. It’s only for three days. Can we take him? I think about my hectic schedule, my other responsibilities, and the five children we’re already raising. Then, I think about the little boy’s soul. Yes, we can take him.
And so I find myself scrambling for diapers and clothes, praying that the little guy won’t send my house into chaos—and hoping that I won’t become too attached in the short time we have him. Because, for each of the 43 children we’ve welcomed, a little piece of my heart breaks. I think, “Break my heart for the things that break yours, Lord!” In fulfilling God’s call to foster and adopt, I’m finding that a broken heart is inescapable.
For years, my husband and I have been on this wild ride and have experienced the greatest blessings and deepest pain—sometimes simultaneously! Countless people have said they could never do what we do. My response is usually, “You could do what I’m doing! You just have to decide that the risk of a broken heart is worth helping a child. As adults, we can choose to take that risk; the broken-hearted children in state care don’t have a choice.”
God’s call is that we help the orphan; He makes that clear throughout Scripture. I like to think that God especially loves foster care, since He entrusted His Son to an earthly foster dad (of sorts). And today the need is so great that it cannot be ignored: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 400,000 children are currently in state foster care in the United States. Those reasons keep me going when being a foster parent gets difficult.
And it is difficult. But it seems that when the situations get more extreme, there are more opportunities for touching people for Jesus. The great thing about my job as a foster parent is that I can talk about Jesus to every one of my “clients.” Not only that, but we’ve had the opportunity to share the Gospel with biological parents, whose rock-bottom circumstances lay their hearts bare and their messy lives wide open. So many of them are in need of a parent, too.
I recall one teen girl who stayed in our home for less than 24 hours. I became convicted that I hadn’t told her about Jesus yet, so with an officer on the way to pick her up and tears on my cheeks, I remember rushing into her room and saying, “Please trust Jesus! Don’t put your trust in people; you’ve seen how they have let you down time and time again. Jesus is the only one you can truly trust.”
My heart breaks for her and for the other children in care who have been let down again and again by parents, by the system, by others who turned a blind eye. My great desire and calling is that these precious ones would know that Jesus loves them, that He is worthy of their trust, and that He can heal their wounds. Isn’t that what we all need?
Meadow Piepho and her husband, Jeff, founded Revolution BIC (Salina, Kans.) ten years ago. Raising five children (ages 3–8), leading a foster care/adoption support group, and volunteering in the public schools also keep her hopping. Sometimes she sleeps.
“For active love is a harsh and fearful thing com-pared to love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone looking on. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.” —Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
These words have haunted me ever since I first read them as a first-year student at Messiah College, a BIC-affiliated school in Mechanicsburg, Pa. I recognized myself in Dostoevsky’s description of dream love; I still do. But I also yearn for something better. I am conscious of being called by God to the harsh, fearful, and utterly beautiful reality of active love—the love Jesus showed us on the cross—and this passage has served as a reminder of His calling in my life.
Dostoevsky’s words were also among those echoing in my heart when I accepted the call, following three years of seminary in privileged Princeton, N.J., to plant a new congregation in an impoverished neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio. Anyone who is foolish enough to move from a place like Princeton to a neighborhood full of poverty and crime is likely to need such reminders. I am tempted every day in this difficult context to substitute dream love for the real thing. I still lust for dramatic, noble-seeming actions that would issue in quick results and easy answers for the hurting and broken people around me. Dream love, however, can heal no one and solve nothing. It is a counterfeit—an empty copy of Jesus’ love, which always expresses itself on a cross.
It was that love that took me from Princeton to East Dayton. And that love, I’m discovering, is no discrete commitment. It has no limits and sets no boundaries. It carries obligations and costs that cannot be measured in advance. It continues to give in the absence of reciprocation. It surrenders every demand for control and accepts into itself the pain of uncertainty. It is, above all else, patient.
Every other attribute of love—its kindness, its selflessness—can be temporarily imitated. But only Jesus’ love has the ability, day after day, over many years, to love an unloveable person quietly and without thanks or recognition.
I’ve only lived in this neighborhood for a little over two years, and yet that has been long enough for me to discover my lack of patience and poverty in love. But here is the good news: Though my love is pale and dreamlike most days, the inexhaustible love of God, made visible in Jesus, still stands and shines with the radiance of a thousand suns over my life. It shines over my little church and this hurting neighborhood, warmly illuminating everything. His love calls me forward, promising to recreate itself in me and, through me, to recreate itself in others.
It caught hold, one night, of a weeping heroin addict whom I held in my arms after she crumpled in despair onto the sidewalk outside my house. I felt inadequate and at a loss. I had nothing to give her, I thought, and no way to help her. I prayed the name of Jesus over her, offering nothing but His love. What a foolish thought—love only. The love of Christ works miracles every day! It has, does, and will always suffice. That same woman has been free of drugs for over a year now, is on the honor roll as a full-time college student, and is nearly ready to regain custody of her daughter—all thanks to the active, inexorable, unbreakable, fearsome, and holy love of Jesus Christ. She still struggles every day, but the love of Christ struggles with her, strong enough to tame her chaos and heal her wounds if she will only keep submitting to its awesome power.
Jesus’ love is a summons to die and the gift of life. It cannot be the latter without also being the former. By God’s grace, I will continue to die into and live through His love until, one day, I wake up in a world made new by its power.
Zach Spidel is the site pastor for The Shepherd’s Table (Dayton, Ohio), a daughter congregation of Fairview (Ohio) BIC. Among other things, he enjoys reading, biking, and baking. You can read more of his writing at likeshiningfromshookfoil.wordpress.com.