God’s Call Through the Fire:
Thirty years ago I stood on the sidewalk and watched a home burn while waiting for the Firemen who had never been called. I did not know it then, but a five year-old girl was also waiting for rescue that came too late. Today 150 children wait for a Christian mentor to show them the way out of a toxic life. This time I am not waiting, and I hope you will join me.
This is my true story, which God used as a burning bush in my life. I was twenty-five years old and on my way to work when I saw dense black smoke coming from deep within my neighborhood. I turned off the main road, and with my neck craned to the horizon, I followed the smoke. What I found was surreal – two men stood on the sidewalk watching a home that was burning as if they were hanging out by the barbecue. I jumped out of my car, adrenaline flowing, looking to do something. The sight of the two men casually talking and laughing about last night’s football game stopped me in my tracks.
I would like to say that I grabbed the garden hose and put the fire out, or, at least, tried, but seeing the calm of these men stopped me. “Has anyone called the fire department?” I asked. The stare that preceded; “of course” punctuated the idea that I may be just a bit too boyishly excited about this scene. It was as if they were saying; “Just relax young buck and wait for the professionals.” “Is anyone home?” I asked. Again, I was greeted with a stare, a pause, and a negative reply. “No one is home”. Maybe I should still go to the bedroom window, I thought. But before my feet could move, I was stopped with the thought; they might think I am trying to be Rambo.
A woman joined our group of three and I asked if she had called the fire department. She looked alarmed and ran back into the house. She returned and told me that she was the first person to call. I felt it again; I wondered if it was God telling me that I should go to the windows and look in. Again, I could not get myself to move. The fear was not of fire, but of what these strangers would think. So, I stood and listened to their football chatter.
Finally, I heard the sirens, the professionals were here. The flames were now shooting 30 feet into the air. One fireman put on his jacket and rushed into the front door with his oxygen mask and tank in hand. I got in my car and went to work. I could not get that scene out of my head. I was so ashamed that I had not gone to the window or even turned on the hose that lay wound by the driveway. I stood there and did nothing while a home burned. On my way home that evening, the local radio news reported that a five-year-old girl died in that fire. The mom had gone to a neighbor’s house for coffee as the child slept in her bed. I pulled to the side of the road and wept.
I had stood on the sidewalk as a child died. Today there are boys and girls all across this island who are living in toxic environments while you and I are both on a similar, figurative sidewalk. 100 boys and 50 girls have asked for a Christian mentor, and yet they wait. Some are experiencing the heat of abuse. Others are suffering from neglect, and still others are living with mothers or grandmothers who are so overwhelmed with abandonment and poverty that they have little to give. We do not need special gear. We have the Spirit of God. Our Lord is the Father of the fatherless and has called us to care for these children.
The thirty-two years of experience we have in mentoring children has shown us that when a Christian mentor prays up and then shows up, God shows up and lavishes His love on both the mentor and the child. Mentors go to the window of these children’s lives every week and build a relationship. They bake cookies, play ball, walk on the beach, play a board game, or feed the ducks. God uses these obedient offerings of time to build a relationship, to open the window of hope and usher in the fresh air of God’s love and truth.
Will you help? Money is very tight. We are not cutting back, but actually planning to expand to reach all these children. It is unacceptable to allow the lack of funds to keep us on the sidewalk, expecting the professionals to do it, as the house burns. WE are the professionals because we are the Church of Jesus Christ. He has called us off the sidewalk of “normal life” and onto the mission field of loving and leading the lost to Himself. If you are called to be a mentor, please call us and we will lead you though the screening and training process and match you with a child. Otherwise, please write a check. The need is as real as the call. The opportunity to make a difference is with us now.
John Cragg Executive Director