From Peter: "While doing ministry in Washington D.C., it was my privilege and honor to partner at several moments with Sherry Woods, director of the Unique Learning Center (ULC). The Unique Learning Center has provided biblical mentoring and tutoring to at-risk children of the Shaw neighborhood since 1982, during some of the most violent years of that city's history. I'm pleased to share a post from Sherry about another ministry that God has called her to.
If you are looking to make an end of the year donation to a very worthy organization, please consider the ULC - details can be found here."
It is difficult to find room for all the Christmas events and end of the year activities that capture our attention during this season: church services and programs, wrapping presents and mailing greeting cards, and attending various parties of various sorts. We manage to find room for it all. Yet there is often little room to reflect on how the birth of one Child, sent down from our Father above and entrusted to a young woman and a carpenter, changed the world forever.
We even forget some of the realities that make up the Nativity. One of them occurs on the night of Jesus’ birth as the earthly parents of the Holy Child are repeatedly told “No room”. Those who spoke those words to Mary and Joseph had no inkling of whom they were turning away, and the profound honor they had passed up by refusing refuge for the family of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “No room,” Mary and Joseph were told over and over again, until someone finally decided to make room, however humble that room would end up being. But the world would forever be changed by what would take place in that little tumbledown stable.
As 2015 quickly approaches, I have been thinking about a journey that my own family began a year and a half ago, a journey of making room for someone in our lives when there seemed to be no room to spare. I have directed an inner city ministry to children in Washington, D.C. for twenty-five years, and in that time, helped mentor a young man named AC. In June of 2013, AC proudly returned home from his first year of community college, only to discover that he had no place to live. His mother had left their apartment and made other living arrangements that could not include AC. His father, who was working toward getting his life on track, also had no room. At 22, with physical and mental disabilities, AC found himself very alone and unprepared to face the world on his own.
For the first month of AC’s return, his former tutor and his wife took him in. This was not at all convenient as they were both retired and in the process of relocating out of state. But Steve had tutored AC for many years and couldn’t bear to tell him, “No room.” So AC had a place to live, but only for a short while.
With little time remaining, I worked to find a more permanent solution for AC. My husband and I discussed the situation and unexpectedly felt led to receive AC into our own home, despite the fact that with three teenagers of our own, we figuratively and literally had no room for AC – not even a bed. In addition to the physical constraints, my family was still mourning the loss of my mother-in-law who had passed away from brain cancer just two months prior. My eldest daughter was a rising senior in high school, and needed our assistance with college applications and campus visits. I was also entering my busiest time of year for ministry, providing summertime activities for dozens of under-privileged children in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C.
But like the final innkeeper from the book of Luke, we made whatever room we could for AC. We gave him a place to stay and made room for him around our dining table. We made room in our conversations, at holidays, and at family outings. I gave him a place on my summer staff, and also had to make room in my schedule to help him with job applications, take him to interviews, and establish a routine for daily living. My husband made room for man-to-man conversations about responsibility, integrity and growing in the Lord. The more we made room, the more we were stretched and strengthened. It called us as a family to live out our mandate to care for the ones who no one else has room for, and it has drawn us closer to the One born humbly in a manger.
Eighteen months later, AC has successfully maintained a job as a courtesy clerk at one of the grocery chains here in DC. To his credit, he is the only courtesy clerk remaining from the group hired a year ago. His supervisors love him and sing his praises. The lessons in integrity that my husband taught him are challenged daily as customers try to give him tips and he faithfully upholds company policy not to accept them. In living with AC, we discovered that he likes animals, and so connected him to a local animal rescue league where he volunteers once a week. He has strengthened his relationship with his father; last Sunday, he used money that he had saved to treat his dad to a pro football game. And after the first of the year, AC will be entering a residential program for young adults with intellectual disabilities and will be moving into his own apartment near his job.
AC has slowly and intentionally built a life for himself and it has been a joy to watch this process. And all he needed for this to take place was a little room, a physical and spiritual place to call home, even if just for a little while. And so while this journey has not been an easy one, I am so glad that our family made room for AC. We are far better for it. We are both humbled and grateful that God used us in this simple way to help get AC’s life on track.
As we all consider what resolutions to make and keep in 2015, I hope that one of them will be to make more room in our lives for both Christ and for others, even if it is not at all convenient, and even if it seems we have no room to spare. Perhaps the room we make will be a physical one for someone who has no place to stay. Perhaps it will be a spiritual or emotional one, providing friendship and family to someone who has neither. But as the birth of Christ reveals to us, we should never underestimate what wonderful things God can bring into this world through just a little room.