January 10 – When Grace Abounds

It’s like one of those stories of the unexpected check arriving in the mail and it’s exactly the amount you need to pay the bill of the unexpected expense. I would dismiss such stories as just too cheesy except for Becky and I having experienced just such grace many years ago in our tight budget years.

This is a story with less of the unexpected, but more of seeing grace and its amazing work.

Chapter one begins nearly a decade ago and mostly is not my story to tell, but for the fact that at the very end I have a small role to play.  One of our LPC physicians had walked with a patient on a long journey through what would be a terminal illness.  The care given was the best medicine could provide, but, more, it was personal and caring and filled with faith.  In time our doctor would share his Christian faith with a faithful patient and her family and friends.  The patient would speak of God’s presence in her life even through the darkest times. Our doctor prayed with her and sometimes when appointments and procedures were scheduled around the doctor’s mission trips to Guatemala, he spoke of his sense of calling and the joy he found in following Christ to that faraway place.

When death’s dark shadow finally fell, family and friends – and the physician – grieved deeply, but not as those without hope.

At the end of the year when death had come, LPC received and unexpected check in the mail.  It was a from a charitable foundation.  One of the trustees of the foundation had been in that circle of grieving friends and family. When the foundation made its annual disbursements, $10,000 was given to LPC’s mission work in Guatemala, a tribute to our doctor’s faithful care. The money was put to good use in the ministry to the people around Lake Atitlan.

A wonderful story of grace – maybe you heard it at the time; it was not kept secret. And neither was it over.

That kind gift came five years ago this past December.  And  each December since then a gift has come from that same foundation; two more years of $10,000 gifts and these last two Decembers, gifts of $20,000.  No strings attached other than that the money support the mission work of LPC.  Each year I write a letter to the trustees of the foundation telling them how the funds were put to work. That’s all. A thank you. And no response. I don’t expect one.

But I’ve kind of come to expect a check from a charitable foundation to show up in the church mailbox mid-December.

In late November of this just-past year Becky and I were visiting Hunting Park Christian Academy in North Philadelphia. We’d gone to the chapel service, had some things to drop off, and found a few minutes to talk with Kevin and Jen Deane, who help lead the HPCA team in the ministry with 200 students and their families God has given them to do.  In the course of our conversation Kevin, HPCA’s principal, mentioned a growing concern that the community organization which provided after school child care for some of HPCA’s students, was likely to fold – who knows the issues it faced, but it looked like it might be that as of January 6, the first day back to school after winter break, 35 or more HPCA students would have nowhere to go after school but a house empty until a parent or grandparent got home from work.

The shuttering of the after school program would be a major threat to HPCA’s ability to provide the kind of wholistic and quality Christian Education God has called it to provide in that tough neighborhood.

Kevin and Jen (Jen’s the Director of Development; her job is to raise support for the school) said it would cost at least $25,000 for HPCA to run the program through the end of the school year. They had a month, with two weeks of winter break as part of that month, to design, fund, and staff a major addition to the HPCA ministry.  In fact, they had about two weeks by the time final word of its closing came from the community organization.

Kevin sent me an update email on December 19. The program was closed. HPCA would provide care for those kids.  Somehow. Someway.  I think that’s the same day a check for $20,000 arrived from a charitable foundation which had heard about the gracious and faith-filled care an LPC doctor gives his patients.

HPCA launched its after school program this past Monday, January 6.  “Flying by the seat of our pants” is how Kevin put it.

LPC’s Mission Committee met that same Monday evening, January 6. One of the first agenda items was notice of the receipt of $20,000 from a charitable organization that seems to trust the work we do and support.  Further down the agenda was an item that had to do with an update on the after school care issue at HPCA.  It didn’t take us too long to see that we needed to reorganize the agenda and put those two items together.  Listed one after the other it wasn’t hard to see what we should do.  We just did it.

I emailed Kevin right after the meeting to tell him LPC was in for $20,000, and his response came quickly, “I don’t have words.  This is beyond generous.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

You’re welcome, HPCA.  It’s what you do when grace is unleashed to do its amazing work.

As I told Kevin on Tuesday, “So, a kind and faithful physician does what God has called him to do and a decade later our committee does what God is calling us to do so you can do what God is calling you to do.  It works.”

Grace abounds.